Friday, October 21, 2011

Alcoholics Anonymous History and "Courage to Change"

When Bill Wilson conducted A.A.'s Convention in St. Louis, it was a first for many things pertaining to Alcoholics Anonymous History. It was the first major Alcoholics Anonymous event following Dr. Bob's death. And that made it the first Alcoholics Anonymous History landmark since publication of the Big Book in 1939. It was the first contention by Bill Wilson that A.A. had "come of age."[[ASIN:091685602X Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age: A Brief History of A. A.]]. It was an introduction to A.A.'s new conference system and Twelve Traditions. And it gathered together many notables who had figured in A.A.'s beginning. Perhaps most significant, Bill brought in two religious leaders he felt played a major role in A.A. They were featured speakers. Their remarks are still important to an understanding of A.A. in its Big Book stage. The first religious leader to speak was Fr. Ed Dowling, S.J. The second was Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., rector of Calvary Episcopal Church.
The remarkable thing at the convention was Bill's introduction of Showmaker to the AAs assembled. Bill reported Shoemaker's talk in his Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age book. And in it, he commented that there came to the lectern a man that most AAs didn't know. That appearance was so successful that Bill invited Shoemaker to be a speaker at the next convention--which was in Long Beach, California. And still very few AAs are treated to Shoemaker's relevant ideas--even though Shoemaker was invited to write articles for A.A.'s own "Grapevine" publication.
But it was to be years before the real significance of Shoemaker to A.A. would be revealed in detail. As the years went on, Bill wrote many tributes to the role that Shoemaker had played.[[ASIN:1885803273 New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A. (2d ed.)]]. Bill wrote Sam that without Sam, A.A. would have been nothing. And later, in an article published in A.A.'s The Language of the Heart, Bill pointed out that almost every idea in the last ten of A.A.'s Twelve Steps came from the teachings of Rev. Sam Shoemaker. Bill called Sam a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Both Bill and his wife Lois made it clear that Bill and Shoemaker became close personal friends. And Shoemaker made it clear that he had been a part of the A.A. movement from its very beginnings.
One part Sam played was covered in his first radio talk to America. It was titled "Good Morning." [[ASIN:1885803222 Good Morning!: Quiet Time, Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A.]]. And the "Good Morning" book by Dick B. showed the important role that Sam played in the practices of Quiet Time--which became a part of early A.A. practices. In fact, Quiet Time was said to be a "must" in early A.A. It involved prayer, Bible study,seeking God's guidance,and use of devotionals like Henry Drummond's The Greatest Thing in the World (1 Corinthians 13 and "love"). Its ideas of "prayer and meditation" found their way into Step Eleven which Bill fashioned as part of his suggested steps to recovery in the first edition of A.A.'s Big Book published in 1939.
But the heart of Sam Shoemaker's spiritual ideas was still in need of publication and commentary. For Sam's actual language could be found in almost every one of Bill's suggested Twelve Steps. And "New Light on Alcoholism" lays out many of the parallels. And this is something most AAs didn't know, and probably still don't know. Therefore the book "Courage to Change" by Bill Pittman and Dick B. was published by Baker Book House (Fleming H. Revell) and then republished by Hazelden. Finally it came out in ebook form. It stands as an authoritative review of the biblical ideas Sam contributed to A.A. Steps and to its Big Book.
Why read it? Because two of A.A.'s leading historians collaborated to make this book an easy-to-read study of Sam Shoemaker's real contributions to the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. They kept it brief. They made it a tutorial. They used accurate Alcoholics Anonymous History materials. And even today this book stands as an outstanding, concise, and accurate study of the Twelve Steps as Sams Shoemaker helped Bill Wilson to fashion them.

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