Church fellowship helped along path of recovery – Empty Nest by Curt Swarm


I arrived in Mt. Pleasant on a Sunday morning after driving all night. My 12-step sponsor in Colorado had told me, “The first thing you do when you get to Mt. Pleasant is go to a twelve-step meeting and find a sponsor.” I took him seriously. Looking in the phone book, I called the number and found out the time and place of the meeting—8:00 that night at the First Presbyterian Church. There I met some amazing people who are still with me today. Come alive in 1995!
That was three pastors ago—all of them wonderful people. Slowly, through my association with the 12-step group, I began to get to know some of the Presbyterian people, and liked them. They were down to earth, friendly, and obviously very intelligent.
With heavy heart our 12-step group had to leave the Presbyterian Church. You see, the Presby Church was too alive and vibrant, with activities almost every night. People in addiction recovery guard their anonymity religiously, and there was just too much traffic in and out of the church. We found another place where there wasn’t as much going on. The Presby Church was sad to see us leave, but understood.
Years later there was an art contest at the church. I was just starting photography and thought I would enter. I’ll be darned if one of my photos didn’t win—“Sheep in Winter”—a pastoral scene. The award even had a little cash with it. Groovy. That first award at the Presbyterian Church launched my career as an artist.
Whenever I donated blood, it was always at the Presby Church. My blood sacrifice?
When Ginnie and I got married, we started going to the Presbyterian Church. Ginnie had been a Presbyterian in her former life, so it was a natural progression. I knew the people and a lot about the church, so if it would make my wife happy, we’d try it. Ginnie soon became a member of the Bell Choir and I’m now a deacon. Boy, do I have them fooled!
Being a writer, I’ve always wanted to teach Creative Writing, like I was taught in college. I approached the pastor, and then the church Elders, with the idea that I teach a creative writing class. They approved my request, and provided the space and time. That was the first creative writing class to be taught by me. It went extremely well. I have since moved the class to our home, and have just completed the third year (there will be a fourth) of teaching creative writing, with outstanding results. And it started at the Presbyterian Church.
There was a benefit auction at the church. I donated one of my photographs and one of my metal sculptures. On the night of the auction, I was petrified that no one would like my art, and it would go for a minimal bid, if bid on at all. Much to my surprise and sweaty palms, a little bidding war ensued over both pieces. That meant so much to me. The church liked my art.
So, my first 12-step meeting in Mt. Pleasant was at the Presbyterian Church, my first art award, my first creative writing class, they purchased my art at auction, and it’s where I donated blood. Talk about a multipurpose church!
However, the biggest benefit from the church came, not from what it could do for me, but its theology. During their service, there is a period of silent confession, followed by a song or scripture of forgiveness. After going through this Sunday after Sunday, I finally realized, I am forgiven, and sent as a servant! What a revelation! I no longer have to carry around this burden of guilt and shame. I am forgiven, now there is work to be done. What a church!
Note: This is just my experience with the First Presbyterian Church of Mt. Pleasant. For each person, it is an individual journey and, hopefully, as rewarding, if not more so.
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at or visit his website at

About Chuck Vandenberg 5098 Articles
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