2018 AA Keystone Conference, Winnipeg, Manitoba
October 26 & 27, 2018
By Cathy M.
Members of the Winnipeg secular AA group, Beyond Belief, heard that the organizing committee for the annual Manitoba Keystone Conference was looking at new ideas for the 2018 conference.
We got a package together citing the rising number of non AA recovery groups vs. registered secular AA in Canada and USA. AA is slipping.
We reported that the AA International Conference has hosted a dedicated panel for “Agnostics and Atheists” since 1990 – the last six International Conventions!
We cited census trends (fewer self-identifying as any religion), group and financial decline and a definite void in filling service positions at all levels.
We were invited to make a presentation to the 2018 Keystone Conference Committee – an incredible opportunity.
Heck – we thought it was incredible to be considered thus far!
In the allotted 15 minutes, Doreen D, Chantelle S and I made a palatable or soft pitch, favoring a panel vs. workshop. Going over the handout material and using props, such as the pamphlet “The GOD Word”, and the 2016 October Grapevine, which was devoted to articles by nonbelievers, and – we read an excerpt from former trustee Ewing… and left copies of same for the entire committee.
Yes, we were asked the basic questions, such as “What will you talk about?” “What literature do you use?” “Don’t you believe in a higher power?”
Indeed it was like starting from the amoeba… but we carried on: our emphasis of carrying the message and working within the theme of, get this: Inclusivity. Yes, that is the 2018 conference theme!
By now we were over 30 minutes and the next presentation group were scheduled. The attending members of the Committee all gave us the thumbs up, from their perspective, and commended us on a job well done.
A few weeks later, we heard that our panel was in!
Oh, but wait – what will we call it? After much discussion and back and forth… they agreed to our original title, “Secular Recovery in AA”.
Seems a few of the committee members thought that every AA group was secular, so they had to work that out.
Now, this fact is unfortunate: our group hasn’t grown much in the last 2 1/2 years. We can pretty much cover four seats and a panel chair/spare, plus we are on the lookout for a dynamo newcomer in the months ahead. Which means we don’t feel positioned to draw a huge crowd from within the city as existing supporters. It would be helpful on many levels to fill seats and gain momentum on our own, but that isn’t a given.
We would sure appreciate outside help from the secular community in this endeavour.
Will you come to Winnipeg in late October?
It must also be acknowledged that while the three presenters are members of Beyond Belief group, we were working independently of our Beyond Belief business meetings – a shot in the dark, we thought. We do not make a statement that we ARE the Beyond Belief group – we are in effect, forward-thinking members with a mission … to carry the message of inclusivity.
Whether we have a belief or not, we want the hands of AA to recognize changing times. There are many paths…
If you can find your way to Winnipeg – I hope you’ll come support us at this year’s Keystone Conference!
Cathy M came through the doors of AA in 1992 and easily identified with the stories of other people in recovery, and that she needed help. Trusted AA guides encouraged her curiosity with recommended reading, getting involved and humour. With professional counselling she realized her recovery was “life or death”, given a family history of addiction, suicide, and secrets.
She has always been reluctant to identify with a work or career identity or any sense of permanency – “any time I thought I reached a plateau, a place to be – something changes”.
Throughout the years, Cathy attended and served various AA groups in Winnipeg. At the 2015 International Conference in Atlanta she attended the “We Agnostics” panel which sparked a new direction in her program.
Back in Winnipeg, Cathy and two other women started a new AA group, Beyond Belief, in January 2016. Active in local Intergroup she remains dedicated to Beyond Belief, women’s meetings and visiting AA wherever she travels.