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Formula For An AA Meeting

In Chicago

There may be some features of Chicago AA meetings that would benefit your own group.

Copyright The A.A. Grapevine, Inc., July 1961

Group meetings in Chicago are the open and closed type. In addition, there are ten Sunday-morning breakfasts which offer questions and answers as well as bacon and eggs and so are, in fact, AA gatherings. A bit of history will explain the Chicago meeting pattern.

Six persons, who had gone originally to Akron to get AA, attended the first Chicago meeting held on a Tuesday night in September, 1939. Since then, there has been a group meeting every Tuesday night open to husbands and wives of members but not to the general public.

Early meetings were more of a huddle for mutual encouragement than programmed affairs. A leader, chosen a week in advance, was free to conduct the meeting as he wished. Usually, he read a passage of scripture and told his own story. Meetings were opened with a brief "quiet time" (it may be that this practice originated in Chicago) and were closed with the Lord’s Prayer.

The first departure was the formation of a "setup" committee to convene before the main meeting and discuss such matters as a place to meet next week, how to get a radio program going, hospital arrangements for newcomers and even, on one occasion, how much whiskey to allow a man with the shakes. Handling secular affairs in a separate session left the main meeting free to discuss pure AA.

Within a month of the first Chicago meeting, AA had its first nation-wide publicity, in the old Liberty Magazine, and, as a result, the pioneers soon were outnumbered by new people loaded with problems. Tuesday meeting attendance increased, which, while gratifying, made it difficult to give attention to individuals. At this point, two older members had an idea. They arranged an informal session with a number of new members. It was held on a Thursday night and worked out so well as a way of dealing directly with newcomers that the idea was adopted community-wide on an organized basis.

The Chicago AA territory, including the city and suburbs, was divided into ten areas, each with its own Thursday group. Since then, through growth in membership and subdivision of the original ten districts, the number of neighborhood groups has increased to about 280.

Thursday groups (some meet Friday nights) have become the basic unit of membership, although all of them contribute to support of the Chicago Central AA office and all are serviced by that agency. Thursday meetings are still primarily to assist new people. Discussions are informal. The topic may be one of the Twelve Steps or any pertinent subject selected by the meeting leader.

In the meantime, while the Thursday groups were expanding, the Tuesday-night meetings also grew. For several years there was only one central meeting, attended by all members within fifty or so miles of Chicago. As a matter of convenience to the long-distance members, outlying meetings were set up and there are now six of these. Each is supported and attended by some forty nearby neighborhood groups.

Tuesday meeting programs have become pretty well standardized. Speakers, usually three and a master of ceremonies are provided by member groups in turn. The program committee chairman opens the meeting by reading the widely used statement on the AA Fellowship, makes whatever announcements there may be, welcomes newcomers and out-of-town visitors and then turns the microphone over to the M.C.

Usually, the speakers represent three AA ages – a new man with six months to a year on the program and still radiant from his landing in AA; one who has been in several years; and the group member with the longest whiskers. Women appear as speakers in about the same ratio of women membership in the group. At times there have been all-woman programs. Members of the inter-racial groups also speak frequently at Tuesday meetings.

All meetings, like those in the beginning, are opened with a quiet time and are closed with the Lord’s Prayer. After the Tuesday-night talks, and also after the Thursday-night discussions, it has become customary for all to stay around for conversation and coffee.

L.H., Chicago, Illinois

Copyright The A.A. Grapevine, Inc., July 1961

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