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October 1976

Coming in on the Beam at Kennedy

When there was need, a way was found

ONE OF THE oldest factors in the growth of AA groups is convenience. Groups meet in church basements in every corner of every state in the union. When alcoholics cannot come to a meeting--for example, in a prison or a hospital--it is the traditional role of AAs nearby to "bring the meeting in." Meetings have started in industrial plants, in offices, and just about anywhere alcoholics feel the need, and it's just wonderful!

Sometimes, there are other fringe benefits. While a meeting begins with convenience in mind, it evolves into something quite different. That's what happened to the group that meets every Sunday morning at mammoth Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York City.

Before this group was formed, there were other Sunday-morning meetings in Manhattan and in Queens. As they became known, they grew larger. At one of them, it's not uncommon to see well over 100 AAs grabbing "an extra meeting" each and every week. Among their number was a group traveling in from the south shore of Long Island. These AAs began to wonder why a location a little nearer could not be found--some place a little more convenient--and they began hunting around.

They remembered the several meetings a week that were held at JFK Airport, in the Protestant chapel there. When they approached the folks at the chapel, though, they learned that Sunday mornings would be too difficult, since there were many services for travelers and airline people.

Undaunted, the AAs went next door--to the synagogue! Surely, they wouldn't be having a Sunday-morning service, too! After a series of discussions with the rabbi, it was decided that a meeting could take place, on an experimental basis. It was virtually unprecedented for an AA meeting to be held in a synagogue, anywhere in the New York area.

The announcements went out, and the rabbi was invited to observe the first meeting, as a guest. By the end of the meeting, which was run according to the regular closed discussion format, there was no longer anything "experimental" about it. The rabbi was so impressed, he wrote a letter to the New York Board of Rabbis, advising them of the action and telling them about "these wonderful people who are doing so much to help themselves from the scourge of alcoholism." As a result, overtures have been made for several more meeting places in synagogues, including a group that has formed in Manhattan. Thus, an effort to save a little driving time on Sunday morning has resulted in the opening of a new door of understanding between AAs and our neighbors in the community.

But that isn't the end of the story, by a long shot.

Groups have a way of taking on their own personality, and what may have started out as an "extra" meeting for some has blossomed into a group many now call their own. In the Eastern U.S. AA Directory, the group lists around twenty members, but the regular attendance is probably better than forty. The meeting has spilled over into a second room, where a simultaneous meeting is held each week.

Perhaps the fact that the meeting is on Sunday morning (which follows Saturday night) means something, too. Several newcomers have been helped to "strike while the iron is hot" and their willingness to try AA is strong.

Amid the roar of the 747's, rain or shine, there is a vital group of AAs always on hand to share the message. As a desire grew to expand the group's activity, it was voted at a recent business meeting to hold a beginners meeting at 9:00 AM, an hour before the two regular discussion meetings.

The group has become better known, and some airline employees have started making it their regular meeting, as well.

The very location of the group and the fact that so many people travel through New York on weekends make the JFK Sunday Morning Discussion Group a natural for many of our AA brethren to stop off and share with us. The group is always looking forward to meeting our traveling friends as they pass by.

So we invite all AAs going in or out of Kennedy International Airport on a Sunday morning to stop in and be welcome. If you can't get to the meeting, look for the chapels as you fly overhead, and remember that we're thinking of you.

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