By Vic L.
Firstly, after the relentless attention paid to the presidential election it was a “blessed relief” (pun intended) to hear virtually no discussion of politics either during the sessions or in private conversation.
As a member of the Board of Directors I am proud that our efforts were fruitful but particular plaudits need to go to Nick H. and Dianne P. They did a lot of thankless work.
The Austin convention was indeed a success, and from a personal point of view it was eye-opening and rewarding. I feel we’re headed in the right direction but must continue to pay attention to our challenges.
Austin was endowed with a prudent reserve of approximately $4,000.00 from Santa Monica, and we had hoped to end the convention close to that amount. However, due to the whacky pricing of food by the hotel it looks like we will add to that amount. Normally I would feel good about not going into the red, but as we all know AA traditions talk of the danger of amassing lots of money. So, that problem is passed on to the next Board of Directors. Perhaps the excess could be spent on subsidizing attendance for needy alcoholics, or paying for a “name” speaker that requires an honorarium (a controversial topic that is also passed onto the new Board of Directors.)
Speaking of money: each of my trips to attend Santa Monica and Austin from NYC cost me approximately $1,000.00 (air fare, hotel, food, and miscellaneous). Obviously it’s cheaper for those who can drive and not stay at a hotel, and a lot more expensive for those from abroad. In addition, some members need to take time off from work. It is my contention that attending a Secular AA convention is not only expensive but perhaps a tad elitist.
Here’s a (radical?) suggestion: We might consider holding Secular AA conventions every five years – scheduling it halfway between the religious AA conventions. In the intervening five years local Secular AA members might mount regional conferences around the country as were done in Phoenix and Olympia, Washington in the years between the Santa Monica and Austin conventions. Nearby conferences would be less costly to attend; they would encourage a more grass roots-up approach; and make the convention every 5 years more special and affordable.
It’s fairly obvious that we are an old, white lot. That might be partially explained by the fact that some us arrive at our non-religious skepticism later in life, or that others have been reluctant to come out of the “non-believer” closet at a younger age (as in my case). In any event, we must do better, a lot better both in age and diversity.
Note that although we gained approximately 139 new groups from around the world since Santa Monica, it appears that the number of attendees at Austin increased by only 100. Are we merely talking to each other?
We must reach out, but how?
Religious AA will bring approximately 80,000 members to Detroit in 2020!
It would make sense, therefore that we should have a very strong presence in Detroit as an official division of that convention run by us. (Do the LBGTQ members allow GSO to decide the particulars of their LBGTQ meetings and speakers?) Or failing that, we should perhaps run marathon meetings near the main hotel and invite all attendees to come and “check us out.”
Some of us may wonder about the razor’s edge of setting an example vis-a-vis propagandizing, but GSO encourages exposure. See the Press and Media Page on the AA website, and the The Story Behind the Jack Alexander Article on A.A.
In addition, we should obviously have an ongoing outreach program to Young People in Alcoholics Anonymous. Let them know we exist and how to get in contact with us.
WAAFT IAAC has been officially changed to ICSAA (International Conference of Secular Alcoholics Anonymous), which I hope will default to “Secular AA” in conversation. And for those who are unaware: ICSAA’s sole purpose is to organize and produce conventions every two years.
Along these lines I would also like to make another plea for a wish of mine: the merger of Secular AA with WAAFT Central.
The newly merged entity would:
-Be a repository of all things Secular AA.
-Have one website which would:
-Post the directory of all meetings.
-Post blogs & social media.
-Post updates and FAQ’s.
-Reach out to young people, people of color, prisons and rehabs.
-The convention would be administered by a committee of Secular AA.
In general a central Secular website would help establish a “brand,” and be much more efficient and organized.
I’m sure others probably feel differently and I look forward to learning about their impressions.
About the Author, Vic L.
Vic L. is a documentary film producer in New York City. His date of sobriety is February 11, 1979, and he is the founder of two AA groups in New York City. In the 1990’s he founded the “Columbus at 5” Traditional AA Meeting, and on January 17, 2015 he founded the “Without a Prayer” Agnostic AA meeting.
Vic was featured in the New York Times Article, “Alcoholics Anonymous without the Religion” (February 21, 2014) , and he moderated “Is Spirituality Compatible with Agnostic AA” at the Santa Monica Convention in November 2014. Vic authored the “Perils Facing Agnostic AA”, published in AA Agnostica on June 29, 2015. He has been serving on the Board of Directors for the We Agnostics, Atheists and Freethinkers International AA Convention since January 2016.
Narrated by Len R of Jasper, GA. Len is looking to start a secular AA meeting in his area. If you are interested, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org