At Grace Downtown of Winchester, you’ll hear the sounds of a sermon.
“How many of you woke up this morning and said, ‘thank you God for what I have?’” said Pastor Bradley Hill.
You’ll see young ones squirming in their seats, too – but what you will feel is something you may not be used to.
“He has become, to me, a gift from God to this community,” said Jenny Fanning, a member of the church whose son is a recovered heroin addict.
Pastor Brad, as his congregation members call him, said he rolled in to Winchester homeless, penniless and friendless because of his own heroin addiction. However, there was one person who still believed in him.
“This person had some rules – ‘number one, you need to stay clean. Number two, you need to go to [narcotics anonymous] meetings, and number three, you need to get a job,’” Pastor Brad said.
Now, the pastor who almost gave up on himself is preaching in a bar, to a choir of those reeling in recovery.
“‘I ain’t going to no meetings, man, that’s for addicts.’ Really?” Pastor Brad said sarcastically, impersonating addicts who he said make up excuses for themselves.
One of his congregation members who hears this message is Matthew Fanning. Fanning said he remembers the day he stopped praying to die.
“It was June 14th, that I just had this overwhelming feeling if I didn’t get help, that was going to be me,” Fanning said, referring to one of his best friends who overdosed on heroin. “It wasn’t one of those things like, ‘finally my prayers are answered.’ It was like, ‘I’m going to be buried, I’m going to leave my family behind.”
His mom reflects on her son’s lowest low, which ultimately brought him to rehab.
“He was slumped over the steering wheel of his car, and I was really afraid he was going to be dead,” Jenning Fanning said, with tears streaming down her face.
Jamie Armel is another member of the congregation whose addiction almost killed him. He said he has been using drugs for more than half of his life.
“I started using heroin when I was 15 years old. I grew up around it,” Armel said. “I had some family members that used.”
Armel said his habit took him from the streets, to jail – and the next stop would have been to the grave.
But now, Armel is recently clean. He thanks Pastor Brad for his recovery.
“I think of Jesus being the guy who was actually in a bar when he was alive. He was dealing with people who had issues,” Pastor Brad said.
There are more than 300 members at Grace Downtown of Winchester. Pastor Brad said anyone who is searching for recovery, struggling through withdrawal or needs someone to talk to is welcome to join their ministry.
The church meets every Sunday at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.