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ICSAA

NEWSLETTER Issue 5 May 12, 2018

Secular AA newsletters seem to be like buses. You wait for ages for one then two come along at once. So let’s hop on and enjoy the ride.

Secular AA has been growing quickly and this newsletter has a circulation list in the region of 1000 recipients. It is so good to realize that we represent an ever-growing number of people looking for secular sobriety, as atheists, agnostics, free thinkers and whatever else, we like to call ourselves. Thanks for all your continuing support and keep spreading the word to like-minded people in the fellowship.

We have lots of news about the conference but in this newsletter, we want to start off with some updates from Secular AA itself.  As some of you know, Secular AA was born out of the ashes of the WAAFT-IAAC organization that put on the 2016 conference in Austin, Texas.  The setup of Secular AA has been expanded and adapted from that organization and has consolidated other resources, so that it now has a much wider remit to cover much more than just the ICSAA Toronto 2018 conference.  It has become the source of meeting directories, on-line meetings, podcasts, outreach, newsletter and social media outlets, to name but a few.

As befits a new organization, there has been a lot of work going on since November 2016 to set out and define the structure and mandate of Secular AA with appropriate by-laws and mission and vision statements.

After much deliberation, the Secular AA board has finalized the wording of its Mission Statement to be as follows.

“Our mission is to assure suffering alcoholics that they can find sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous without having to accept anyone else’s beliefs or deny their own. Secular AA does not endorse or oppose any particular form of religion or belief system and operates in accordance with the Third Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous:  The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.”

Their Vision Statement is:

“Secular AA recognizes and honors the immeasurable contributions that Alcoholics Anonymous has made to assist individuals to recover from alcoholism. We seek to ensure that AA remains an effective, relevant and inclusive program of recovery in an increasingly secular society. The foundation of Secular AA is grounded in the belief that anyone – regardless of their spiritual beliefs or lack thereof – can recover in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Secular AA exists to serve the community of secularly-minded alcoholics by supporting worldwide access to secularly formatted AA meetings and fostering mutual support within a growing population of secularly-minded alcoholics.”

Many thanks go to the members of the Secular AA board who have spent so much time and effort in getting to the consensual wording of these important definitions of intent, for our organization.

The rewriting of the organizational by–laws has been a far more Herculean task and it is the aim of the by-laws committee that the final completed version will be published to the membership by July 16th 2018. This will allow for an adequate pre-read and feedback time, prior to their discussion at a workshop scheduled to take place early at the ICSAA conference and hopefully, their ratification at the member’s meeting on August 26th2018.

One aspect of the by-laws, which has had much discussion, is the practicality of passing on the experiences of the conference organization committee to the next conference board.  It has been one area that would have made the Toronto committee’s job a bit easier. Things are going well, even though it seems like we have been flying by the seat of our pants on quite a few occasions!

In the spirit of having transparency in our organizational setup, it is appropriate to point you to  Board Minutes where you can read the board minutes and see the financial statements, etc.

To make things simpler, the finances for Secular AA have been split in two parts.

Firstly, there is the Secular AA part, which covers the costs for the upkeep of the required legal structure of the organizational entity and website costs, etc. When visiting the Secular AA websites, you may have noticed this tucked away at the very bottom of the web pages.

In keeping with the AA seventh tradition, we would like to remind you that Secular AA as a “group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.”

Please do not ignore the opportunity to donate, to keep these resources viable. We know from social media feedback, how important these services are, to many people, particularly those who have no ready access to traditional SAA meetings.

Secondly, the finances for the ICSAA Toronto 2018 are being kept separately, as they are specific to the conference and the hotel venue contractual obligations.

Accordingly, seventh tradition donations for these two parts have been separated with general donations being collected through the https://secularaa.org web pages and the ICSAA donations being collected primarily through the conference registration process and the https://secularaa.com web pages.

The board is putting together a policy on how to use the registrations donations for the conference and this will be published as soon as it is finalized. There will probably be a ‘lottery system’ to allocate registration fees to those who apply for assistance.

The ‘seed’ money for the organization came mainly from the monies left over from the Austin conference. Our aim for the Toronto conference is to run as a defined ‘not for profit’ corporation with the expectation that there will be seed money available for the next conference.

On that note, there is at least one proposal that is currently being prepared for our next conference in 2020 and there will be more news on this, very soon. Exciting times indeed!

Another subject that the board has considered is a cancellation policy for registrants to the ICSAA conference.

We have agreed on the following:

“In the period up to 2 weeks before the conference (August 10th 2018), cancellations will be accepted with a total refund, minus a $10 processing fee.  After this date, there is no refund, however, registration may be transferred to another person one time.  Of course, special consideration will be given on a case by case basis for severe extenuating circumstances such as a death in the family.”

Also, the board had agreed that the cost of registration be increased from $125 to $150 after July 24, 2018.

The main reason for having to implement these policies is our requirement to fulfill our food commitment to the hotel and to ensure that we have the finances to support the conference.

There are other policies yet to be decided including the possibility of having single day admission fees to the conference on Saturday and Sunday. Read the info about Friday night at the end of this newsletter and watch this space!

As some of you might be aware, there is going to be a huge convention coming up with the AA International event on July 2 – 5, 2020, in Detroit.  We would like to initiate a discussion of whether Secular AA should host a Hospitality Suite at this convention.  Nominally, this would be a decision for the next Secular AA board, (to be elected in Toronto at ICSAA 2018), but the decision needs to be made prior to our conference, in order to be able to book the room.  If you have any views on whether we should go ahead with this, or not, then please fill out the survey at the AAbeyondbelief.org website. It will only take a minute of your time and will be incredibly helpful.

We will also be asking for responses via social media and other relevant websites.  This matter is of some urgency and we would appreciate your attention.

It was mentioned in the last newsletter that Jerry F. had been co-opted onto the Secular AA board to help get the by-laws in order.  As mentioned earlier, the committee has done a fantastic job in progressing this task. However, we are sad to report that Jerry F. had to tender his resignation from the board, but we extend our thanks to him for all his hard work on this matter.

We are also trying to set up a web page to satisfy a member’s request for resources on how to set up a regional Secular AA conference. More news as it develops. There will be a workshop at the conference on “Regional Conferences How, When and Why to Hold them”.

Talking of our web resources, we have some pretty impressive numbers to report. All of our websites have been upgraded to handle HTTP/2 and are currently being readied for the EU website privacy GDPR Compliance due to be implemented by May 28 2018. These are very important security and privacy issues that are not optional.

Secularaa.org: This is the main Secular AA website and it has had 32,964 visitors in the past 12 months.

This newsletter comes from here and our mailing list has 955 subscribers. Our Meeting Directory has: 446 meetings, 362 locations and  255 groups.

Secularaa.com: This is our conference website and we have hosted 1,037 sessions from 692 users viewing 3,174 pages.

Secularaa.net: This is the more private website for our board activities and it’s privacy is not anything more than being there to protect our anonymity, as set out in the Traditions of AA.

Facebook : Secular AA Coffeshop: We have 894 members. Most of the News surrounding SecularAA is conducted here. It is a strong resource for ICSAA 2018.

We also have an ICSAA Twitter account and an ICSAA Facebook account.

On-line meetings: SecularAA hosts three on-line meetings:

Secular Saturday, Secular Sunday and Sober-She-Devils Women’s Meeting on Monday evenings. It has spawned two other meetings: Manic Monday from Paris and International Trudgers from South Africa (Mozambique) on Thursdays. These  last two meetings are timed appropriately for Europe and Africa but have had visitors from all over the world. (One was attended by people from Belgium, Brazil, France, South Africa, Turkey, Morocco, Canary Islands, Portugal, Canada and USA.)  That really is spreading the message!

It is time now to go back to the conference

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The number of registrations for the ICSAA 2018 conference is currently at 136.  To fulfill our food commitment to the hotel, we would like to double that number by the end of June.

Registering as early as you can is a great help to us, as we need hotel room numbers and food numbers, in order to budget accordingly.

 PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, REGISTER AS SOON AS YOU CAN.

The conference details can be found at https://secularaa.com and the registration page for both the conference, and the discounted-rate Marriott hotel rooms, are accessed at https://secularaa.com/registration

The Marriott is offering registrants a discounted room rate of $220 CDN per night.

As an alternative, you can make your hotel booking by phoning Marriott reservations at 1 800 905 0667 and quoting event code ICSAA 2018.

This rate is applicable three days either side of the conference dates, over the period of August 21-29, 2018, for any attendees wishing to extend their stay in our beautiful city. As you can see from the following graph, quite a few registrants have taken advantage of this deal and the numbers are growing. So, there should be other conference attendees to tag along with, on your Toronto sightseeing excursions.

Of course, if you come early, you might like to help with the Conference setup! (No Pressure.)

Our allocation of discounted rooms is filling up quickly and it is recommended that you book soon if you haven’t done so already, to take advantage of this great offer.

By staying at the conference hotel, you will have more opportunities to socialize and network with other attendees, and not so far to travel, from your hotel room to the conference room!  We would like you to be aware that the overall individual registration cost of attending the conference, is linked to us fulfilling a commitment of a certain number of room nights in the hotel.

The conference committee has been keeping a very close eye on the things to do and places to see, whilst you are in Toronto. We have been working closely with Tourism Toronto and our ambition is to make this the best SAA conference yet.

There are going to be sights to see; places to eat; bicycles to hire; maybe a concert or two; a ball game; a trip to Niagara Falls and other things to do. The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) is on at the same time as the conference and that is always fun. There might even be an opportunity for you to get off the beaten track and take a walk by Lake Ontario, or through one of the many ravines in the city! It is a great way to discover Toronto.

Details can be found at https://secularaa.com/explore-toronto and will be updated as we get closer to the event.

In particular, the Friday organization committee is looking at some fun activities for daytime Friday. Watch this space.

 But the real reason that people want to come to the conference is happening inside the conference halls.

Now, let’s get into some more details about the conference, itself.

Theme

As announced previously, the theme of the 2018 Conference has been chosen to be “Inclusion and Diversity”. The Program Committee has worked unbelievably hard to incorporate the theme into the program schedule. We want to reflect AA as it is today, acknowledging and celebrating our history and including everyone who has a desire to stop drinking, regardless of their religious or spiritual predispositions.

 Program

The program for the Conference is pretty much complete and can be viewed on the ICSAA conference website, https://secularaa.com/conference-schedule.  This is being updated pretty regularly so keep looking there.

The final schedule will be available soon.

Our early conference registrants have suggested all of the workshop topics and credit and thanks must go out to them

There are three featured speakers confirmed

Friday – Dr. Vera T. (from Toronto)

Saturday – Dierdre S. (from New York)

And on Sunday – Dr. Ray Baker, M.D. (from British Columbia, Canada)

There will also be a very special spot at the conference with Jon Witherspoon, from Grapevine, hosting a “Tell Your Story” and a “Write your Story” room. This will be set up to allow attendees to make appointments & record their stories for possible publication. Again, keep tuning in for more details as we have them.

There will also be a great selection of Secular AA meetings in different formats from various groups, to take part in while attending the conference. These will be included in the program in the next while. Please let us know if you want to run a meeting during the conference.

Outreach

The Outreach Committee has been hard at work spreading the word about the conference and there are many resources to be found at

https://secularaa.com/resources

that can be downloaded, and printed at home.

Even if you can’t make the conference, yourself, you can print and distribute posters, flyers and postcards to your AA groups, your local intergroup or District and Area meetings.

We have a few promotional items, which will be on sale at the conference. We already have a small number of Tee shirts, available at $20 CDN, and buttons for promotional purposes. These will be available at our registration desk at the conference. If you can think of any other souvenirs you might want to buy, such as coffee mugs or hats, let us know, and we can look at pricing them out.

Volunteering

There is an opportunity on the registration form to volunteer for various tasks ranging from, setting up and greeting, through to manning registration.

 

A very important group of volunteers are required to assist Joe C. and John S. with the event recordings. These recordings of workshops, panels and meetings will be available after the conference and are included in the $5 recording fee, paid at registration.  We need numbers of people to help out with this and apparently experience is not needed. On the job training will be free! Please indicate if you are willing take part in this service commitment by using this Volunteer committee e-mail ink.

There will be a conference-hosted hospitality room in the hotel, with snacks, refreshments, charging points and Wi-Fi. This will give a quiet place to meet up with people and generally hang out. We need volunteers to ensure that the room is used for its designated purpose, that coffee is available and no one steals the TV, or the furniture!

Food

The hotel is offering great quality food choices, some of which are included in the registration fee. They are able to cater to all food groups and they are experienced with dealing with allergies. We are noting your food preferences from the registration form and there will be something for everybody. We will be making food choices a short time before the conference, in part, depending on the registration numbers.

Friday Night

A proposal has been made that Friday night should be a free event, encouraging attendees who cannot get to the Saturday and Sunday sessions.  The format for this evening is as follows:

7:00 – 10:00 pm Coffee Shop – Talkathon (THEME: How you came to secular AA in your city/country = Experience, Strength and Hope)

Set-up:  Big Round tables – allowing people to get to know each other 

Light refreshments will be available including coffee, tea, water, juice, soda with snacks

We will leave you with this invitation to participate in Friday Night’s “Talkathon”

“We believe that one of the joys of ICSAA2018 will be the opportunity for all of us to meet and mingle with secularly-minded AA members from around the globe. To foster such interactions we plan to host a series of informal 10-minute talks consecutively from about 7-10 pm on Friday evening August 24th.  We would love to provide an international sampling of stories of experience, strength and hope from a diverse cross-section of secular AA members.  If you would be willing to speak for about 10 minutes in a relaxed and welcoming environment on Friday evening, please send an email to vicechair@secularaa.net indicating where you are from, a few sentences about your experiences in (and/or hopes for) secular AA and to what group (if any) you belong. We will be sure to reply and keep you informed as to how our schedule is shaping up. Please consider helping us to learn more about you.  See you in August!”

Thank you so much for reading through all of this. There is so much to report!  I promise the next newsletter will be shorter.

The conference is for you, and by you. Please help make it very special.

Looking forward to meeting a lot of you in Toronto in August.

 

Nigel S. Newsletter Chair