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2010 David Hancock Award

PAA honors Faith Partners Ministry at House of Hope Presbyterian Church

The Rev. Leah Hrachovec, Vice President, PHEWA Board of Directors, Stillwater, Oklahoma

Nancy Troy and Susan Koll

The Rev. Nancy K. Troy presents PAA’s 2010 David Hancock Award to Susan Koll of Faith Partners Ministry. Photo by Danny Bolin.

PHEWA, through its network, Presbyterians for Addiction Action (PAA) presented the 2010 David Hancock Award to House of Hope Presbyterian Church’s Faith Partners Ministry in St. Paul, Minnesota. The award is given for their exemplary work in education, outreach and support to help people affected by addiction. Susan Koll, the current chairperson of Faith Partners Ministry at House of Hope Presbyterian Church accepted the award at the PHEWA Awards Celebration Reception at the 219th General Assembly.

“Today, our Presbyterian Churches are pretty open to all forms of AA groups, that is, in our basements,” said Rev. Nancy K. Troy who presented the award to Susan Koll, chair of House of Hope Faith Partners. “Very active church members can go for decades without ever running into a member of AA because church members don’t usually go in through the basement door. And because of the confidentiality of the groups, we may never understand just how many of our families are affected by the whole range of addictions.

“At the House of Hope Presbyterian Church, they have opened all these doors.  They have created a compassionate, holistic ministry that makes their congregation a safe and hospitable place for persons and families seeking health and wholeness,” Rev. Troy continued.  “It shouldn’t take an epiphany for our churches to understand the importance of opening up all their doors.  After all, we are in the business of changing lives.”

In accepting the award for House of Hope, Susan Koll explained Faith Partners’ inception: “Our journey began in 2002 when a family in crisis came to our newly arrived senior pastor (Rev. Linda Loving), desperate for help. A family member was in serious trouble because of his alcohol addiction and they didn’t know where to turn. Our pastor discovered that addiction was not a subject our congregation felt safe talking about…and yet there were members in need of help.”

Faith Partners at House of Hope started as a result of a congregational survey conducted in 2002. “Our team of 14 founding volunteers resolved to take action to remove the culture of secrecy and shame around addiction and move the issue from the church basement into our church sanctuary,” Koll explained at the PHEWA Awards ceremony.

A team of 14 volunteers, working with the Rev. Tom Forster-Smith, has created a program of education, outreach and support to help people affected by addiction. Starting in 2004, they began an annual Recovery Sunday worship service focused on addiction and recovery. Over the years, speakers have offered information and hope, even while sharing stories of devastating loss that is the reality for many families. The team also organizes educational programs for adults and youth on the destructive effects of drug and alcohol addictions, depression, eating disorders, gambling and sexual addictions. They have created a library of resource materials for congregation members to borrow and use, they publish information on local resources that address addiction issues, and team members write personal essays on addiction and recovery from a Christian point of view for HOH’s The Anchor newsletter.

Team members are “out” within the church so that they can serve as church and community resources. Their hope is that congregation members will seek them out when they need support, help or a compassionate ear. The pastoral staff knows that team members are available to talk with anyone who asks for help.  Recently, Faith Partners has become a “line item” in the church budget — which they see as “a mark of acceptance, support and the promise of longevity.”

“We know we have had an impact because our programs are well attended, often to overflowing, and we hear positive feedback from our congregation,” Koll said. “Our pastoral staff receive more calls for help concerning addiction issues now. Also, our pastors are now better prepared, thanks to customized training and support from our Faith Partners volunteers.

“I accept this award on behalf of my Faith Partners Team who serve with passion, courage and devotion,” Koll concluded. “It is a labor of love and joy for us.”

The way the Spirit works is always amazing: the Rev. David Hancock, a longtime leader in PHEWA’s Presbyterian Network on Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse (precursor to our current PAA Network), for whom this award is named, served as an interim associate pastor at House of Hope Presbyterian Church in the 1980s. PHEWA celebrates our continuing connection with this faithful congregation and their creative, compassionate work in helping those affected by addictions.