Running in the Spirit

October 3, 2019 

For a number of years, Loudoun County has been without a women’s recovery house. There’s also been no dedicated peer-run program for women in recovery from addiction. This in a county that is seeing addiction and other mental health crises soar. Women are especially vulnerable.

Galilee members Jim Gross and Lori St Angelo run Meridians Recovery and they were committed to doing something about it, so they approached Galilee to be a sponsor of their Run for Recovery.

Jim Gross and Lori St Angelo of Galilee UMC and Meridians Recovery.

On Saturday, Sept 28, fifteen local sponsors chipped in to help twenty volunteers lay a 5k/10k course at Algonkian Park. 75 runners (including Pastor Jason and a number of Galilee members) helped the event increase awareness of mental health issues in our community, while also raising funds to open a woman’s substance abuse recovery house in Sterling. 

According to Jim, “Women can have a tougher time with recovery and they consequently are more transitional. They need a house where they can stay safe and sober. We want to be there for them and plan to hire a female State Certified Peer Recovery Specialist to work with them.”

Galilee members and friends at the starting line in the fight against addiction.

For Jim and Lori, Galilee members who were married by former associate pastor Matt Sergent, recovery work has always been personal and spiritual. The two led our church’s Celebrate Recovery mission for a number of years and established their own recovery nonprofit to help fill holes in addiction treatment programs in our area.

“When Lori and I met, we had a common interest in working with people struggling with addiction. I had long-term recovery myself, was new to faith, and was entering school to become a substance abuse counselor. Lori had been the spouse of an addict and had run the gamut to find treatment for her husband: clinical programs, AA meetings, church, sober housing. It had become a frustrating merry-go-round and she found that often that there was nothing available within the family budget.

“Later, as we planned Meridians, we asked ourselves what we could do. The first need we saw was for sober beds. People leaving treatment facilities typically discharge home, the worst place to go since this is where their addiction flourished to begin with. Clinical treatment only gets you so far. Peer-based recovery services (like the 12 Steps) with transition to sober living allows for a much better result.”

Running the race with the help of faith.

It’s not a coincidence that recovery programs often find a home in churches. 

“Faith is huge in recovery. Spirituality is major thread in recovery literature and practice. A lot of us enter recovery with an almost militant resistance to God. I know I did, 33 years ago. We find a way to cover up that 3 letter word, God, with our pinky finger as we read AA literature—until we reach the end of our line and are able to become teachable, to let go of our fear of giving up control. Maybe we see miracles in our life or someone else’s testimony.”

“Those who of us who do have faith or come to faith stand a much better chance of success in recovery. We can tap into that source of strength.”

Pastor Jason and his cousin Matthew Duley did the 10k Run for Recovery.

“If Lori and I hadn’t had faith to sustain us, Meridians Recovery would have closed its doors in less than two years. But this is what God has called us to do. Each year we struggle and each year God pulls us back from the precipice of disaster. Any and every small nonprofit chokes on a lack of funding. In eight years Meridians has shown a surplus once, but we’re still here. People of faith can feel good about supporting recovery organizations like ours.”

Meridians Recovery is a peer-based recovery program in Loudoun open since 2011. It offers sober living and peer-based recovery programs. They operate a recovery home in Sterling and rent a second building to another recovery organization. The new women’s house will also be in Sterling. 



If you think you or someone you know might have an issue with addiction, talk to Jim or Lori. Their nonprofit website is here and Jim can be reached by email at You might also think of reaching out to Pastor Jason or to Chris Smith, our church communications coordinator who worked with Jim and Lori in Celebrate Recovery.

Stephen Ministers are also people you can talk to about this and other life issues. 

Jim advises that while you can support change for addicts, you cannot change them. Real change comes from within, with help from above. With 33 years of sobriety, Jim is living proof that recovery works.