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Walking up the steps to enter the oldest church building in Philomath, I am reminded of the founding of this town by the United Brethren, a Christian denomination.

Moving here from the Midwest, Philomath’s founders envisioned a sober, moral population, well-educated and hard-working. They built the wonderful brick college, now the Benton County Museum, and this picture perfect church, now Philomath Community Church.

Today, a new movement, Celebrate Recovery meets in this well-preserved piece of Philomath’s history. The purpose of Celebrate Recovery is to celebrate the healing power of God, as expressed in a section of scripture referred to as "The Beatitudes" in the book of Matthew and in 12 Christ-centered steps to purposeful, healthy living.

Celebrate Recovery addresses the spiritual growth of individuals while walking step-by-step through teachings that address all of the hurts, habits and hang-ups that keep us from living fulfilling and productive lives. The goal is to find freedom from addictive, compulsive and dysfunctional behaviors, and enter a life of peace, serenity and joy.

The vision for a Philomath chapter of Celebrate Recovery was born in the hearts of members of New Life Fellowship, a Foursquare church in Philomath, and joined by members of other area churches.

These leaders were mentored and taught by those leading already established chapters of Celebrate Recovery in Lebanon, Waldport, Florence and Salem. To begin a new chapter, leaders are required to attend weekly meetings and work through the entire curriculum of Celebrate Recovery, a process that takes approximately one year. Thus trained, these men and women lead and teach others what they have just learned.

On this evening, my first time attending a Celebrate Recovery meeting, I have arrived too late to share in the snacks and conversation that attendees enjoy before the meeting begins. Now, I see a dozen people gathered, about evenly split between men and women. Up in front are four men leading worship with guitars and percussion. The words to the songs scroll on the screen above their heads. Some attendees stand and are clearly enjoying the opportunity to sing and clap; others sit quietly.

After worship, the first hour includes reciting the entire serenity prayer. Many are familiar with the first line, but Celebrate Recovery includes the rest of the original prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, with its references to God and to Jesus. Announcements, recitation of the eight principals based on "The Beatitudes" and a teaching on one of the 12 steps are also a regular part of the first hour of the Celebrate Recovery meeting. Often, someone will share their testimony of the successes they have experienced on their road to recovery.

During the second hour, men and women split up and meet separately to share their struggles and to encourage one another along the path to healing. Each person limits their sharing to under five minutes, so that everyone who wants to speak has that opportunity. Guidelines require confidentiality and anonymity, not trying to “fix” the problems of others, and making sure each person is heard without interruption.

These smaller groups are where trust is built, and sometimes it is in this setting that a hurt, habit or hang-up is shared for the very first time. It takes courage to speak of one’s negative experiences and feelings and I was impressed with the trust and compassion these women demonstrated.

Janet Cornelius has called Philomath home for the past 20 years, is a member of New Life Fellowship and serves on the Philomath City Prayer Team.

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