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An AA member may, for various reasons, "break anonymity" deliberately at the public level. Moreover, every time a researcher appears to uncover the definitive source, another one crops up to refute the former's claim, at the same time that it raises new, intriguing facts. He had written a book in which he had included the prayer, without attribution, but which resulted in the prayer's appearance in many different places, such as army officer's halls, schools and other institutions. The meeting adjourns, often followed by informal visiting over coffee or other light refreshments.
Since this is a matter of individual choice and conscience, the Fellowship as a whole obviously has no control over such deviations from tradition. What is undisputed is the claim of authorship by the theologian Dr. member came across the Roman philosopher Cicero's Six Mistakes of Man, one of which reads: "The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected." No one has actually found the prayer's text among the writings of these alleged, original sources. Guests at AA open meetings are reminded that any opinions or interpretations they may hear are solely those of the speaker involved.
Then, too, we believe that the concept of personal anonymity has a spiritual significance for us - that it discourages the drives for personal recognition, power, prestige, or profit that have caused difficulties in some societies. As the term suggests, meetings of this type are open to alcoholics and their families and to anyone interested in solving a personal drinking problem or helping someone else to solve such a problem.
Much of our relative effectiveness in working with alcoholics might be impaired if we sought or accepted public recognition. Someone suggested that the prayer be printed on a small, wallet-sized card, to be included in every piece of outgoing mail. staff member, Anita R., browsing in a New York bookstore, came upon a beautifully bordered card, on which was printed: "Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, give us Serenity to accept what cannot be changed, Courage to change what should be changed, and Wisdom to know the one from the other; through Jesus Christ, our Lord." The card, which came from a bookshop in England, called it the "General's Prayer," dating it back to the fourteenth century! Bill made this very point years ago, in thanking an A. friend for the plaque upon which the prayer was inscribed: "In creating A. is now located borders on a stretch of New York City's 120th St., between Riverside Drive and Broadway (where the Union Theological Seminary is situated). Most open meetings follow a more or less set pattern, although distinctive variations have developed in some areas.
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From time to time, the General Service Office of AA contacts major media, describing the Tradition and asking for cooperation in its observance. A.'s burgeoning office on Manhattan's Vesey Street was struck by the power and wisdom contained in the prayer's thoughts. Henry's enthusiastic response was to print 500 copies of the prayer, with the remark: "Incidentally, I am only a heel when I'm drunk .. so naturally, there could be no charge for anything of this nature." "With amazing speed," writes Bill, "the Serenity Prayer came into general use and took its place alongside our two other favorites, the Lord's Prayer and the Prayer of St. Thus did the "accidental" noticing of an unattributed prayer, printed alongside a simple obituary of an unknown individual, open the way toward the prayer's daily use by thousands upon thousands of A. But despite years of research by numerous individuals, the exact origin of the prayer is shrouded in overlays of history, even mystery. Theodor Wilhelm, who had started a revival of spiritual life in West Germany, had acquired the "little prayer" from Canadian soldiers. Wilhelm had apparently selected the pseudonym Oetinger out of admiration of his south German forebears. Midway through the meeting there is usually a period for local AA announcements, and a treasurer passes the hat to defray costs of the meeting hall, literature, and incidental expenses.
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