The Church as first responders to the addiction epidemic


By Rev. Darick Biondi and Rev. Cindy Briggs-Biondi

On May 11, 2017 we had the opportunity to attend the DEA’s 360 Strategy unveiling at the University of Charleston.

The importance of this event was marked by the appearance of Attorney General Jeff Session; however, it was the words of Special Agent In Charge Karl C. Colder that struck a chord (and I am paraphrasing): it is the Church that serves as the first responders to the addiction epidemic, the church is who family members turn to when their loved one is in trouble. 

While this day served as a great moment for learning about all the various strategies that the DEA, CADCA, and other public sector groups are employing, it served as a reminder of the essential role the Church plays in dealing with the opioid epidemic that is destroying an entire generation.  As we broke into small sessions, I was reminded of the Church’s role by Rev. Aaron Gooden and Rev. Jeff Allen, Director of the West Virginia Council of Churches.  In their breakout session, Jeff and Aaron spoke to public sector employees about ways the Church can help serve any group that is seeking to battle this epidemic.

As the Body of Christ, we, as the Church, are called to be a witness to the hope that we all have in Jesus Christ. When it comes to substance abuse and the myriad of struggles that come along with it, as the Church, it is our mission to leave hope in our wake. Sometimes that can feel overwhelming and we don’t even know where to begin. We don’t even know what the first step is.

The Clergy Consultation on Substance Use Disorder on May 25 at West Virginia Wesleyan College can be the first step for you and for your congregation. While the event targets clergy, participation is not limited to clergy only. Over the course of the morning and afternoon, you will have the opportunity to hear from a number of folks about ways that the Church can provide support and develop ministries for those who are battling addiction, as well as for their loved ones.

We will hear from the West Virginia Council of Churches and what they learned over the course of many listening events asking people what their biggest concerns with substance abuse were. We will hear ways in which some congregations have begun to step out in faith to address this challenging and complex social and medical issue. We will hear from several people who work in areas related to addiction and recovery. Most importantly, we will have time, as Christian leaders, to talk and think together about how we might empower our congregations to use our unique and collective gifts to leave hope in our wake for those whose lives are impacted by addiction.

None of our lives or communities are untouched by addiction. May we, as the Church, take this first step in coming together to learn and to discern God’s call for us at this moment in time. The Holy Spirit is already at work in the world around us, urging us forward to step out in faith and in action.

I hope you will be joining us on May 25 at West Virginia Wesleyan for the Clergy Consultation on Substance Use Disorder. You can find more information and registration available on the West Virginia Council of Churches’ website at