By Neil F. Stony Plain, Alberta’s Beyond Belief Group and its 9AM Saturday Meeting originated in October 2013 when Dan L., Neil F. and Corinne L. brainstormed at her house a way to create an inclusive secular AA group that did not try to convert or de-convert anyone and allowed for any individual beliefs or non-beliefs. We also wanted to create a meeting where we were free of religious pressure and AA dogma. To be noncontroversial and to avoid the problems Toronto’s secular groups encountered in being de-listed by the Toronto Intergroup, we choose to eliminate reading any form of the 12 steps or traditions and to place conference approved books on the table we sit around along with a variety of secular recovery books.
Enthusiasm permeated our first small meeting on 16 November 2013 and our meeting attendance over the next five months ranged between 2-6 people. On 19 April 2014, at the suggestion of Tom G. who had just returned from his winter sojourn to the states, we decided to become a registered group. Our New Group Form was completed and submitted to GSO and Area 78 and we were recognized as a Registered Group in May 0f 2014. At this point, the group was comprised of 5 founding members: Corinne L., Dan L., Tom G., Leif P. and Neil F. Since then, our membership has fluctuated; at this point we have 10 active members and our typical meeting has 6-10 attendees.
It is rumored that there are some local AA Members who feel that we are not a Real AA Group because we do not include prayer in our meetings and do not open our meetings by reading from the Big Book or other AAWS printed literature. Over time, this has prompted AA members to investigate what is going on; at the end of the meeting a number have indicated that they enjoyed our meeting and its format and a couple have said some variation of, “I’m glad I didn’t have contempt prior to investigation because you guys have a real meeting. ”
We open our meeting with an explanation of our format, which welcomes everyone to an Open Meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, a safe environment in which there will be no prayer. The AA Preamble, the AA Responsibility Pledge and a reading from the book Beyond Belief follow. Discussion is based on the reading or any recovery issue. If there is time left over, we have open discussion until time for announcements and we end with our Serenity Affirmation, “May I have the serenity. …”
A number of members of our group felt oppressed by what they felt was overt Religiosity and AA Dogma expressed in some of the other AA Meetings they had attended. We found that after some initial venting, regular participants tend to focus on how to live peaceful sober lives full of sanity and stability. All attendees are safe to express their woes as well as their joys in our meetings without being attacked or told what they should do.
We are extremely fortunate to have several members who have decades of continuous sobriety and service under their belts and are highly respected in our local AA community. They give our group street cred as young people might say.
We participate in the District 10 and Area 78 Meetings and contribute financially to both as well as other service entities. In addition, we keep AA brochures stocked at the Serenity Center on behalf of all of the groups that meet there.
To date, the Stony Plain Beyond Belief Group consists of a strong core membership with many regular and occasional visitors. A few of our regulars are snowbirds and bugger off for the winter but always return happy to be back home. If you are in the neighborhood, please join us.
Corinne L. Dan L. Neil F.