GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - "I really needed to get to the root of the problem, and mine was addiction," a woman who did not want to be identified said. "The church helped us get into treatment."
The woman shared her struggle with drug addiction, and how a local church changed her life, with nearly 35 Christian clergy members from different cities, denominations, and racial backgrounds at Gulfport Ecumenical Fellowship.
The group was founded in spring of 2015 by three pastors who were new to the Coast. Now, the organization consists of 18 churches and faith-based organizations.
The group came together at Westminster Presbyterian Church for a moment of faith, fellowship, and to form connections to support each other's ministries.
"We see people in town who are hurting, people who are homeless, people who are suffering with addiction and so forth, and we've come to realize that each of our churches wants to address a lot of these questions, but we think we can do more together," said Pastor Will Shurley of Westminster Presbyterian Church.
The church leaders had the opportunity to break bread and pray together. They also created a new spirit of cooperation, while still respecting each church's core traditions and beliefs.
"Theology matters. There's a reason that I'm a Presbyterian. But we also believe that underneath all that, we believe truly in Jesus Christ. There is one church," said Shurley.
"As a new clergy person, it didn't take long for me to realize that it's hard for pastors to find friends. They're either really, really busy or they close themselves off, so it's nice to be around a bunch of other pastors," said Rev. Bess Perrier of Cedar Lake United Methodist Church.
The Fellowship meets four times a year at different churches, and the next gathering is in April. For more information, call Westminster Presbyterian Church at 228-864-3143.