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Much of our relative effectiveness in working with alcoholics might be impaired if we sought or accepted public recognition. Someone suggested that the prayer be printed on a small, wallet-sized card, to be included in every piece of outgoing mail. staff member, Anita R., browsing in a New York bookstore, came upon a beautifully bordered card, on which was printed: "Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, give us Serenity to accept what cannot be changed, Courage to change what should be changed, and Wisdom to know the one from the other; through Jesus Christ, our Lord." The card, which came from a bookshop in England, called it the "General's Prayer," dating it back to the fourteenth century! Bill made this very point years ago, in thanking an A. friend for the plaque upon which the prayer was inscribed: "In creating A. is now located borders on a stretch of New York City's 120th St., between Riverside Drive and Broadway (where the Union Theological Seminary is situated). Most open meetings follow a more or less set pattern, although distinctive variations have developed in some areas.While each member of AA is free to make his or her own interpretations of AA tradition, no individual is ever recognised as a spokesperson for the Fellowship locally, nationally, or internationally. AA is indebted to all media for their assistance in strengthening the Tradition of anonymity over the years. Comes of Age, a New York member, Jack, brought to everyone's attention a caption in a routine New York Herald Tribune obituary that read: "God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference." Everyone in A. Ruth Hock, the Fellowship's first (and nonalcoholic) secretary, contacted Henry S., a Washington D. member, and a professional printer, asking him what it would cost to order a bulk printing. and through them, the West Germans after the Second World War." Moreover, Beth continued, after the war, a north German University professor, Dr. There are still other claims, and no doubt more unearthings will continue for years to come. Reinhold Niebuhr told an interviewer that her husband was definitely the prayer's author, that she had seen the piece of paper on which he had written it, and that her husband-now that there were numerous variations of wording -"used and preferred" the following form: "God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other." While all of these searchings are intriguing, challenging, even mysterious, they pale in significance when compared to the fact that, for fifty years, the prayer has become so deeply imbedded into the heart and soul of A. thinking, living, as well as its philosophy, that one could almost believe that the prayer originated in the A. A., the Serenity Prayer has been a most valuable building block-indeed a corner-stone." And speaking of cornerstones, and mysteries and "coincidences"-the building where G. A chairperson describes the AA program briefly for the benefit of any newcomers to AA in the audience and introduces one, two or three speakers who relate their personal drinking histories and may give their personal interpretation of AA.Since this is a matter of individual choice and conscience, the Fellowship as a whole obviously has no control over such deviations from tradition. What is undisputed is the claim of authorship by the theologian Dr. member came across the Roman philosopher Cicero's Six Mistakes of Man, one of which reads: "The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected." No one has actually found the prayer's text among the writings of these alleged, original sources. Guests at AA open meetings are reminded that any opinions or interpretations they may hear are solely those of the speaker involved.It is clear, however, that such individuals do not have the approval of the overwhelming majority of members. Rheinhold Niebuhr, who recounted to interviewers on several occasions that he had written the prayer as a "tag line" to a sermon he had delivered on Practical Christianity. Niebuhr added at least a touch of doubt to his claim, when he told one interviewer, "Of course, it may have been spooking around for years, even centuries, but I don't think so. What are probably truly ancient, as with the above quote from Cicero, are the prayer's themes of acceptance, courage to change what can be changed and the free letting go of what is out of one's ability to change. Grapevine received a clipping of an article that had appeared in the Paris Herald Tribune, by the paper's correspondent in Koblenz, then in West Germany. Peter's research threw the authenticity of 18th century authorship out the window. All members are free to interpret the recovery program in their own terms, but none can speak for the local group or for AA as a whole.People who are new to should be able to seek help with complete assurance that their identities will not be disclosed to anyone outside the Fellowship.Then, too, we believe that the concept of personal anonymity has a spiritual significance for us - that it discourages the drives for personal recognition, power, prestige, or profit that have caused difficulties in some societies. As the term suggests, meetings of this type are open to alcoholics and their families and to anyone interested in solving a personal drinking problem or helping someone else to solve such a problem.As the Fellowship of AA grew, the positive values of anonymity soon became apparent.
Niebuhr's permission, the prayer was printed on cards and distributed to the troops by the U. "No one can tell for sure who first wrote the Serenity Prayer," writes Bill in A. ." Other attributions have gone as far afield as ancient Sanskrit texts, Aristotle, St. Moreover, the plaque was affixed to a wall in a hall where modern day troops and company com-manders of the new German army were trained "in the principles of management and . That conviction went unchallenged for fifteen years. "The first form of the prayer," Beth wrote back, originated with Boethius, the Roman philosopher (480-524 A. They provide an opportunity for members to relate their experiences with one another on problems related to drinking patterns and attempts to achieve stable sobriety.
From time to time, the General Service Office of AA contacts major media, describing the Tradition and asking for cooperation in its observance. A.'s burgeoning office on Manhattan's Vesey Street was struck by the power and wisdom contained in the prayer's thoughts. Henry's enthusiastic response was to print 500 copies of the prayer, with the remark: "Incidentally, I am only a heel when I'm drunk .. so naturally, there could be no charge for anything of this nature." "With amazing speed," writes Bill, "the Serenity Prayer came into general use and took its place alongside our two other favorites, the Lord's Prayer and the Prayer of St. Thus did the "accidental" noticing of an unattributed prayer, printed alongside a simple obituary of an unknown individual, open the way toward the prayer's daily use by thousands upon thousands of A. But despite years of research by numerous individuals, the exact origin of the prayer is shrouded in overlays of history, even mystery. Theodor Wilhelm, who had started a revival of spiritual life in West Germany, had acquired the "little prayer" from Canadian soldiers. Wilhelm had apparently selected the pseudonym Oetinger out of admiration of his south German forebears. Midway through the meeting there is usually a period for local AA announcements, and a treasurer passes the hat to defray costs of the meeting hall, literature, and incidental expenses.
An AA member may, for various reasons, "break anonymity" deliberately at the public level. Moreover, every time a researcher appears to uncover the definitive source, another one crops up to refute the former's claim, at the same time that it raises new, intriguing facts. He had written a book in which he had included the prayer, without attribution, but which resulted in the prayer's appearance in many different places, such as army officer's halls, schools and other institutions. The meeting adjourns, often followed by informal visiting over coffee or other light refreshments.
In the early days of AA, when more stigma was attached to the term "alcoholic" than is the case today, this reluctance to be identified - and publicised - was easy to understand.
D.), and author of the book, Consolations of Philosophy. They also permit detailed discussion of various elements in the recovery program.