The Way is a service of recovery based on the 12-step methodology of Alcoholics Anonymous and led by Rev. Dr. John Kilzer who teaches that we are all in recovery, broken and in need of each other. Held every Friday night at 6 pm, one of the toughest hours of the week for those in recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol, it is filled with great music, free food, genuine connection, and lots of love.

In this film, John shares with us his inspiring story. He came to Memphis in 1975 to play basketball for Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis), where he was a four-year letterman and a full-blown alcoholic by the end of that time. He completed his master’s degree in English there and stayed to teach literature and composition. While in school, he was befriended by Teenie Hodges, guitar player for Al Green and author of “Take Me to the River” (as well as our theme song, “Love and Happiness!”) who taught him how to play the guitar. John explains that he started writing songs, mainly to have something to do while playing the guitar. He casually recorded some demos at Ardent Studios and was surprised to find himself in the middle of a bidding war between major record labels vying to sign him. He signed with Geffen Records and scored a top-ten song (“Red Blue Jeans”) on his first album. John tells us that the next thing he knew he was traveling on his own tour bus across the states and in Europe, overwhelmed and very sick from his alcoholism. He finally “hit bottom” when he had a breakdown in Paris. John bought himself out of his record contract and came back to Memphis where he ended up in jail several times. He is thankful to Judge Tim Dwyer of Shelby County Drug Court, for leading him to recovery, and to a crack addict he met during his final time in jail, for leading him to the ministry. John entered recovery in 2000, at first thinking he had to put down his guitar to quit drinking. He earned his MDiv in 2005 at Memphis Theological Seminary and his PhD at Middlesex University in London in 2010. In that year, he was also ordained and, with the support of Church Health, started The Way at St. John’s United Methodist Church, grateful that he was able to return in his new ministry of recovery to playing music. We are grateful for the strong community of support, healing, wholeness, and hugs he has created for all of us with love and his music.