Divinity is blessed with gifted volunteers who so strengthen our ministry together. This time I lift up two women, Rachel McDonnell and Linda Grand who have supported myself and Divinity in our response to opioid addiction and death in our congregation and county.

Rachel just finished doing a wonderful job of teaching our 5 week winter interim on Monday nights and Wednesday mornings. Her textbook was entitled “Mental Health First Aid USA” with the subtitle, “For Adults Assisting Young People”. Class members were of all ages from young teachers in our school system to retired grandparents helping with grandchildren.


In the chapter on substance use, we were told to listen non-judgmentally and to do the following…

  1. Express your concerns open and honestly.
  2. Interact with the person in a supportive way rather than threatening, confronting, or lecturing.
  3. Avoid expressing moral judgments about the substance use.
  4. Be assertive, but do not blame or be aggressive.
  5. Do not label the young person, for example, by calling them a “pothead” or a “drunk”.
  6. Respect the youth’s culture by exhibiting verbal and nonverbal behaviors that demonstrate this respect.

Some of the same skills are taught in our Stephen Ministry Training and in the 3 day GCC (Greater Cleveland Congregations) Training that Linda and I just completed at Forest Hill Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights.

Thirty very diverse Christians, Jews, and Universalists came together to learn how to organize ourselves, our churches, and synagogues to effect change in Cuyahoga County. Linda became connected with the GCC through her volunteering every Monday in the Lakeside Homeless Shelter for men.

I became interested when the GCC got enough signatures to put the renovation of the Q on the ballet because half of it was being funded with our tax dollars. The only concession the GCC asked for was for Dan Gilbert to build two mental health centers so firemen and police had a third alternative besides an emergency room or jail. When Gilbert withdrew his half of the funding to get it off the ballot, he promised to instead renovate some rec center basketball courts! I decided it was time to get involved. We certainly need mental health centers both in response to the opioid epidemic and the mental illness that Linda experiences at the Lakeside Shelter.

At the training, I met Sonja from the “Hispanic Alliance” that operates in the same area as the Redeemer Crisis Center. She deals a lot with slumlord housing on the near west side. We had a lot to talk about!

If you’d like to learn more about GCC, the local director, James Pearlstein will be at 10:00 Adult Forum on Feb. 25th.

In a recent sermon you heard the pain in my voice as I talked about how opioids have affected our Divinity families. Unfortunately, I know there will be more funerals for our brothers and sisters who overdose. We can do better. Lord, when did we see you addicted?

In Christ – Pastor Doug