Monthly EC Teleconference
October, 1st, 2016
14:00 p.m. CET
Please notify the secretary at EU-Secretary@adultchildren.org with changes, additions, or motions for this meeting.
A. Call to Order: Please be sure that any background noises in your area are eliminated since the sounds make it difficult for participants to hear. When speaking, please say your name first. This will help us record your name with your input. Thank you.
1) Open with the Serenity Prayer
2) Tradition Ten: ACA has no opinion on outside issues, hence the ACA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
B. Roll Call of European Countries: Majbrit, Denmark, WSO Vice Chair/European Chair;
Jeffrey, Prague, Czech Republic, EU Finance and Literature
Sub-Committee Chair/WSO Board Trustee
C. Establish Quorum
D. Guests:Alexia, Germany
Kadri Liisa, Estonia
Non-committee members are welcome to listen to this teleconference but are requested to remain silent unless asked to participate. We respectfully request that guests hold their comments until the end of the meeting. If someone needs to talk further, they may do so after the end of the meeting.
E. Announcements – Conclusion of the Third Annual European Meeting, Moscow
Majbrit announced that the Third Annual European Meeting that was hosted in Moscow went well. “Meeting the Russian fellowship members was an extremely moving and very, very huge experience for me. I was humbled by the fact that we were more than 230 people in the room and people’s honesty in sharing and people’s willingness to say a few words and exchange heartwarming feelings towards one another.” Group representatives from all over Russia were in attendance, from Siberia, to Belarus. “I was amazed by people’s willingness to travel from so far. It speaks to the importance of having a national event like that. This was the European event, but in the future they might be able to do a national event for Russia.” Commemorative coins of the event were provided at the Conference to attendees.
Jeffrey confirmed with Majbrit’s assessment of the convention and the sense of fellowship experienced by all the attendees. He further added, “It was a great idea to bring a gift to commemorate the event and commemorate that the Russian BRB will soon be printed and distributed there. That is a big, big thing. The fellowship has done so much in Russia and Russian speaking countries without any literature, and I can just imagine what having that book will do for them. The Russian speaking fellowship is really going to explode in the next year once we get the Literature in their hands.”
Dennis from the Russian fellowship also shared his thoughts on the convention. “We had about 300 people attending from eight countries: Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Estonia, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and Denmark. We also had attendees from 45 cities, from the north, south, east, and west. It was a very wonderful experience. It was totally awesome.”
Jeffrey updated the committee on the status of the Russian BRB. The printers were met with to show them what type of look and feel to reproduce. The Russian Intergroup will have their book in the next month or so.
The Amazon UK shipment was delayed pending changes to the shipping labels. The labels did not allow access into the Amazon Warehouse since they did not conform to Amazon Standards. The labels had to be created by Amazon and due to issues on their end, there were further delays. Fortunately, those issues have been corrected. Jeffrey was notified by Robin that the new labels have been sent to the distribution center. Hopefully by the second or third week of October the shipment will be in the UK.
F. Guest Speaker – Majbrit
Jeffrey: The topic for today’s discussion is how to setup and manage service structures for groups and intergroup. This came out of talks and meetings in Moscow with Majbrit where she was sharing about how the Danish intergroup is very organized and efficient. I felt this would be a great discussion for today because there are a lot of small groups in Europe that are growing and learning to develop structures. It would be helpful to learn from groups much further along and have the experience and are doing it very well and successfully. Eventually we would like to make this into a best practice for developing their own service structures. Without further ado, I’d like to turn it over to Majbrit.
Majbrit: I have now been in service for a total of seven years. I started doing service at the end of 2009 as a group representative. I came into the program almost eight years ago. Very soon, I discovered that getting well and getting into recovery required service. I was grateful. And yes, I was hurting, and fucked up, and I was doing step work and exhausted from back surgery and leaving my husband and getting divorced. There was a lot of things happenings. But my anchor point, what I knew was going to be my survival was the program. In Aalborg, in the northern part of Denmark, that was where I started my ACA meetings. The old group representative was rotating out of service. Now, I can only speak to the years that I have been in service and remember the program in Denmark is 26 years old, so I can only speak to the five years that I was doing service in ACA Denmark.
At the time when I came into ACA Denmark, we already had a web page. It was a very small web page, just with the most simple solutions and most simple information about meetings, literatures, the problem, the solution, anything free. Why we go to ACA and then we also had the pamphlet, “ACA is…” for downloading. There was also an area where you could go in and view a yahoo group where we stored all our documents. That meant if you were in service, you got an access code to read the minutes from that group. That was the beginning.
I was in my step work and doing this service from a place of appreciation. I knew a part of my recovery would be to give it away, to be of service to other people. When I got into ACA, I began making coffee, taking the key, being there half an hour prior to the meeting setting up the table. In Denmark, we have real candles on the table and when we start reading the paragraph of why we’re here, the traditions, and such, and then dim the light when we share. When it’s time to end the meeting, we turn on the light again. It’s very serene and spiritual to attend ACA meetings in Denmark and sitting face to face with people in the darkness. You can see them go within themselves to find the truth and share it. The darkness helps make people anonymous. Kind of like when you sit around a fire camp in the summer. You get all still and look at the films and have a serene feeling that no one is watching you because you are watching the fire.
It actually helped me open up even faster than I had hoped for. Anyhow, I became the Group Representative. We have a system in Denmark where we meet each other every third month, so four times a year. The end of January, May, August, and the end of November. The last Sunday of the month. We get together face to face and bond. We have relationships with other group representatives, so you’d know them by their voice, by their face, by how they’re acting. It gets you into a place where you get comfortable with the people you’re doing service with. But we would also socialize. We’d meet at 12 and have lunch and small talk. At 1’oclock, we’d have the business meeting, the service of the fellowship.
We had a very strict agenda with reporting what we’d done. This means the translation committee or literature committee would report to the fellowship how far their translation and what they have done and if they’re struggling or need something from the intergroup in terms of finances. The MPS (my personal story) was that I was in service for like 6 months and then I was offered after doing my 12 steps a position on the board as a trustee. I was chair of the MPS at the time. That meant we had contact information on the website that people could write in to. I would answer questions about the program and meeting, as far as where to find. Pretty much what I do for the WSO on the European Committee.
I would report to members on how many calls or emails I did. And if someone was abused in a meeting or someone had abused the fellowship in some way, I would report on that as well so the group representatives could learn from the experience on how we had dealt with that. Unfortunately, we had to delist two meetings and that was a person who was interpreting the 12 steps and the meetings and abusing other people at that particular meeting. We couldn’t tell her she couldn’t do that, but we could delist that meeting because it was an unhealthy meeting.
In between those meetings, four times a year, we would have contact with other through email or by phone. If something arose like a financial thing, or that something needed to be addressed, if there was turmoil in the fellowship as a whole, we would gather and have a business meeting. That would only be the five members of the board, or service group.
The meeting itself was at 13:00 after an hour had passed. Only three meetings, altogether. The Agenda had to be sent out six weeks prior to the meeting. If the Agenda was not sent out prior, things on the Agenda couldn’t be discussed in the groups and we could not make motions from the Agenda because groups didn’t have a chance to read it. Two weeks after a service group meeting, a huge meeting with all the group representatives and the board of the intergroup, the minutes would have to come out. The group representative would put the minutes out in their meeting room so people could read it. If there was anything that they [the fellowship] needed to address, they would take it up in their local business meeting in their own group so the group representative could respond later.
In 2013, we had the privilege of hosting the ABC in Denmark. Our BRB had just come out that year. It came out two months after the ABC. It had an overwhelming effect on deciding to have the ABC in Denmark. So we went from 26 meetings in 2014 to 58 meetings in Denmark. Sometimes, these meetings, where they’re held, we have a division so there is one meeting in Copenhagen, one meeting outside of Copenhagen, and then one meeting in another island and then on a peninsula. So we’ll change the location of the intergroup/group representative meetings to see the city where the local meetings are. This moving around geographically makes it so it’s something you want to do for you group because you want to get to know other fellowships.
Obviously, if it’s in one city more than another, then people from that city will attend more than others. Even if you’re not a representative, you can still attend the meeting. You don’t have any voting rights, but you have an impact if you want to share your experience on the things in the agenda. That makes a huge difference sometimes. We have this sense of belonging when we have these meetings. It can be very loud because we are ACAs, because we want to discuss, argue, and control, but you still have a sense of fellowship and a formula, or rather a sense of belonging and that we’re equal, able to talk, and make decisions.
Even as a group representative, your right to decide what happens in the fellowship is equal to the rights of someone on the board of the IG. And that’s very democratic. It can be messy, but I think it’s very nice to have this strength from the fellowship and different perspectives. Depending on where you live, the perspectives can be very different. In some places, you can go to a meeting every day at multiple times. In others, you have 2-4 options in a week.
In 2013, I had a personally bad experience because someone in service sent out a letter to the whole fellowship claiming that I was trying to control the fellowship. Me and another person specifically. Today, I’m grateful for that letter because it really reconvened the whole fellowship. The next time there was a service group meeting, about 32 people showed up because they were scared that something would happen to the fellowship.
And today, I resigned my position when I was working on a board level at the WSO in 2014 because it was too difficult for me to be both a group representative of Denmark on the WSO and then be a board member of the WSO. It was too many hats. But still, there is a very solid structure of people doing service in Denmark and I have contact with the Danish fellowship on a service level because people call and ask me how I did this or that.
In February, I was talking to the intergroup representative in Denmark and they were struggling to get people into service because they were meeting on skype. I commented that when you can call from a phone and attend a meeting, it is much more comfortable to do so yes, than traveling across a country to an intergroup meeting, but what you don’t get is this effect of being able to see one another and know that you’re in the same fellowship. It reminds you in a completely other way than just talking on the phone.
Today, I can see that as well when we have board working sessions. It is completely different than having a Face-to-Face working meeting. To me, personally, seeing someone’s eyes and hearing their voice naturally with their body language and mimics is so important to me. That’s how I grew up, analyzing people, their mood, were they angry, were they not, so being able to meet face to face gives me a calmness and stability that you can’t get when you’re meeting on the phone. That’s why I advocate meeting different group representatives in person. Working three hours concentrated on what you need to do really speeds up the process because it takes forever to explain yourself in an email or over the phone. But if you’re together, you can draw things, you can do a memory card, you can do a vision of what you want to happen. You can decide good ideas and people can suggest things.
Another thing I committees. They pop up so often in Denmark. People are so willing to do service and then…we’ve had the trouble of not having literature that we could pass out to doctors and institutions and jails and wherever because we’re not permitted to translate that. When I came on the board of the WSO, I asked the chair of NTS committee at the time to give me a letter that I could translate so we could get that and have the trifolds of H&I translated as well so we had some tools for doing that.
I remember one meeting where three people showed up and they wanted to do this service and the next time I showed up for the service group meeting, they didn’t come and had nothing to report on it. I just let it go because it wasn’t my committee, but I know that Hassa has about 7 people who want to do H&I committee stuff in Denmark. That’s really nice.
But when we set up a sub-committee in the intergroup, they have a budget and expenses. It mostly can be done electronically, but if anybody needs anything set aside for that committee, it’s something we decide in common at the service group meeting that we have four times a year.
I think that’s probably as far as I can share about the service structure of Denmark. We used to have a phone line that people could call into. This was started up in the early days. Somebody would take care of the phones with a schedule so there would always be someone answering the calls 24/7, but as we moved into the electronic forum of email and stuff like that, it went away because it was too ambitious once people could send emails. Also, I don’t know if every meeting in Denmark is registered on the WSO page, but there are a lot of meetings that are because when the WSO is sending out information to the fellowship as a whole, we would get that. Then we’d have to translate the ballots and vote on the ballots and send them back to the stats. So that was working when I was working in the Danish groups. It has been pretty important that every meeting in Denmark had an email address for the meeting so that we could send out information to the local groups in Denmark.
We would also have an ACA marathon. One person would pick topics from the BRB and then we would have meetings from 10:00AM to 6:00PM, executive meetings that are just like regular meetings for 1.5 hours and we would have the meeting on the chosen topic with a 7th tradition donation. But it would continue the entire day. Most often, when we have these marathons, it’s the last weekend of the month before the business meeting. A lot of people show up for that in the capital and less where the meetings are scarce in Denmark. We even have people showing up at AA conventions and giving out information on ACA and selling literature in booths. Next year, we’ll be at a huge AA event where there will also be Alanon, NA, and ACA meetings.
We’re moving in a very structured way of doing things, but it’s also taken a long time. I just wanted to share what we’re doing to maybe inspire other people to organize themselves so they can harvest the fruit that we’re getting from our fellowship doing things the way we’re doing it. And with that, you can also select what you think works best and pass on the rest. With that, I pass.
G. Guest Questions
Jeffrey: Thank you Majbrit for sharing those very, interesting experiences on how the service structure is working in Denmark. Before we open the call up for other questions, I wanted to ask the guests if they have any questions regarding what Majbrit spoke about just now.
Michael: Thank you very much Majbrit. I found it very, very useful and I wrote down quite a few notes. In Ireland, we have a very small number of meetings and no intergroup at all. I have a few questions and hoped you could answer some of them:
Who pays the cost of the venue?
Majbrit: We have a unique situation in Denmark. Most meetings are in voluntary places or churches in Denmark. Because every Dane is paying tax for the church, we have never separated the church from the state here in Denmark, we have a state church you could say. You could say we can have meetings where we don’t have to pay rent, we can just make a donation for the church. The voluntary centers are also happy to have us because we are a part of their recovery structure in the service centers. Usually we have those huge meetings in a center or in a public school where we just ask if we can borrow the location or a classroom or such. We’re granted that without having to pay for it actually. So it’s not a matter of money in our case, but I can see how that would be a problem for others. I also know that if you have an active church and it doesn’t clash with any arrangements in their church, then it might not be a problem. And starting up small by gathering people like that, when you start to get connected to people across the country, it makes it much easier to do service on a national level. And that’s why we don’t have an intergroup per se. Just for Copenhagen, there are 20 meetings. We could have 6 intergroups, but what we decided that there was much more democracy if every group representative from a local group had a say in what and how the fellowship should be run in that country. That gives people a sense of belonging, of pride for their group, and it most definitely gives them a sense of being heard. The dynamics of the fellowships become stronger because people are actually being heard in their problems.
How do you deal with hurt people who hurt others?
Majbrit: What I would refer to is the safety of the meetings. In the back of the BRB, there is something called the handbook that talks about safety in the meetings. If a person told me they had been hurt and didn’t know what to do about it, the first thing I would ask them is if they have a sponsor or a fellow traveler to talk to about it. It’s kind of harsh, but what I learned was that if you can’t deal with it, you have to remove yourself from that meeting. I know that when there are meetings that are scarce and far apart, that can be a really hard blow that you have to deal with if you have to leave the meeting.
Michael: What about at the service group meetings?
Majbrit: We have had all kinds of chaos in our service group. There have been people who have left in anger and there’s been people who have been co-addictive and voted because of some angry person or what not. But what happens in times where the fellowship grows and you stay in the solution and really work the traditions and put principles before personalities….and if you abide by the traditions and refer to the traditions, we’ve had service meetings where the leader of the meetings has interrupted the person talking stating a tradition or “please align with what we are doing right now, you will have a say when it’s your turn.” It’s about the person who is leading the meeting having a great deal of recovery. But because the meetings are moved around in Denmark, everyone gets to have this experience because the person who is leading the meeting is usually the person from the location the meeting is at, even if it’s their first time. Even if it’s strange if you’re a newbie, we all help one another because we all know it’s about recovery.
Who makes the agenda and what is on the agenda?
Majbrit: The agenda is basically; everybody knows that they have to report on the committees that they are working in. The person who is on the literature committee, in our case, mostly translations, they will report, the MPS chair will report, the treasurer will report, the chairperson of the service group will report, and if there is any other committee, they also report to the fellowship. In their reporting, there will be questions and if there is something that concerns the whole fellowship or a group that has a best practice working really well. When we start this business meeting, we have an introduction and then a sheet of paper where you write up the details of your meeting so we have statistics for how many people go to the local meeting and how the group is doing. We’ll actually be aware of struggling groups, and a best practice of filling up a car and going to that meeting to support that meeting. We also do shares so that on a local level, once a month people will have speaker meetings where they invite speakers out of town to come share their experience. It helps create this effect of “Wow, now we have this speaker who’s come from out of town and we want to hear what that person says.” They then start attending meetings again. We always say that to do this, you have to have done the steps and have working knowledge of how to implement the steps in your life. Only then can you do a speaker meeting. But that is also something decided locally. If they have a very new group, then it’s about doing the 9th step to do a speech, or talk, or share. These are the kinds of things that support the fellowship as a whole. I’ve personally shared my recovery all over Denmark. We can actually see a boost.
On the island where I live, we’ve set up two new meetings. We use the announcements to let everyone know and people actually show up to support those meetings.
Kadri Liisa: In the Estonia group, we rent a room with AA and Alanon. They pay for their usage in cooperation. I think it’s obligated that the members do what they can to make sure the rent gets paid. That’s how the groups work in Estonia.
Majbrit: Thank you for sharing. In Denmark, we’re very fortunate to have a system where we don’t have to pay rent. I can see how it would be difficult to try and grow the fellowship the way we are doing if you have to pay for the venue. But it is my experience that even though our program is not affiliated with any religions, that the churches are very glad to help. So that’s why we’ve done it. The churches want to help.
Alexia: Thank you for sharing. We wanted to ask if you have something like a registered society or something in Denmark that was responsible for all the legal belongings of the Danish ACA fellowship? We are having our first meeting next Friday with some people who are willing to serve in the upcoming German regional service committee and one of our first steps will be to form a registered society to install a website with all the info about ACA in Germany. In two weeks we will have our first meeting for the literature team, at the moment we are six people. As far as I understand, it would make sense to invite all the group speakers from the German meetings to the next meetings. Do you have any advice about structuring the registered German service community?
Majbrit: In Denmark, we have the liberty to form society. And that’s what the fellowship does. We form what you could call a nonprofit, but we don’t have any legal papers. There are no people registered, like the chairman of the society, but that’ pro forma because everyone is equal in our fellowship. The only person who is actually registered in the fellowship, which has been a problem and the reason why we created the society of ACA, is registered as a personal treasurer and set up a bank account for the ACA Denmark. That can be problematic. That’s why we set up a structure of a society so that the legal structure there would have the responsibility for the 7th tradition donations and money from literature sales. It might look different now, but we didn’t have to set up a legal entity to run the fellowship in Denmark because we were a society of volunteers and were working as such.
If we set up as a business entity or nonprofit organization, we would have a lot of issues with accounting (of course we do accounting for everything we do and report back to the fellowship), but as a society, we don’t pay tax. And that’s why we set it up that way. Otherwise we’d need to set it up as a legal business and we aren’t there yet. That would mean professional staffing and a lot of other things that would be able to take care of that on a daily basis. Everyone in the Danish fellowship is a volunteer. But there is a great amount of trust that you have to learn. And I think people are doing a great job of doing that.
Jeffrey: The society route sounds like a good idea. You don’t have to worry about the tax or anything that a more formal entity would require. So thanks for bringing that up Alexia.
Dennis: Do you have a deputy group representative for each group or not?
Majbrit: Of course, there are meetings where everyone is a newcomer and they’re not very mindful of participating at the national events like the service group meeting. But we are sending out letters from ACA Denmark to the new groups asking them to send somebody, it doesn’t have to be a group representative or trustee, but they can still send a newcomer to that meeting.
Dennis: Does each group have a year of service or are the terms kind of a common decision?
Majbrit: Thank you for this question. ACAs change circumstances all the time from moving, or new jobs, or etc. Most groups have a one-year term and then at the end of that year bring in someone else before their term ends. Sometimes that doesn’t happen though and we have people speak up. We have a folder that they can download from our webpage that explains how the meeting is conducted, what the issues we are talking about are, and see the agenda. So it’s possible, even as a new group member, to be prepared for the meeting.
Dennis: What about restrictions on terms?
Majbrit: We don’t have that really, but if we’re working as trustees for the board of the service group, then we rotate out after two years of service. But if someone wants to elect you to a new term, they can.
H. Meeting Closed
Jeffrey motioned to close the meeting and it was seconded. The meeting was closed with the Serenity Prayer.
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