I grew up in the Church of England, the uniformed organizations, youth club and reading the lesson when asked, and as University and work took me around the country finding a Church was always important to me.
When planning our Wedding, for me it had to be in church and the vows made before God. Along came a move to Penn and St Bart’s and children, including a very poorly first born. Baptisms and an increasingly regular attendance made us feel part of the St Bart’s family. Hand on heart I would have professed a strong Christian faith, but there was a lingering feeling of a missing dimension, I now realise that my faith was a cerebral, head based faith at that time. Looking back I see periods of time when Jesus was guiding and supporting me, but pre-Alpha I did not fully appreciate this.
Rev Ben arrived at St Bart’s and wanted to run the Alpha course, and run it as Confirmation preparation. I had lots of preconceptions around Alpha, but Ben seemed too grounded to promote anything way out, and as we had a son wanting to be confirmed I committed myself to attending and supporting our son.
Ben’s talks always seemed to have something in them which resonated with me, and were delivered with balance and humour. The random division of the group into smaller groups meant we were with people of different ages, life experiences, and time as a Christian. This enabled lively debate as we fed off each others experiences.
I approached the Holy Spirit day with trepidation, and visions of American TV evangelists etc.
A guest speaker, Rev Pauline was gentle, creative and humorous in her presentation. It had been a cold windy morning, and by lunch the wind had dropped but I was still frozen. As Pauline went to put a CD on, a gust of wind blew all around the church and died away. I started to feel warmer, then hot and my chest felt squeezed as in a bear hug, and tears began to flow. I looked up and my friend sat in front was changing colour- a swirl of red, yellow and orange and he was sat watching this kaleidoscope of colour on his hands. These things don’t happen to level headed people like me, but something extremely powerful was happening. This was a very visceral response, and one which sent my life off on a tangent. As we left church I felt extremely calm, and was aware of a daft grin on my face and the world looked clearer and brighter. My husband immediately noticed a change in me and a gradual change in the atmosphere of our home.
I finished Alpha with an appetite to continue developing and learning, and the announcement of the Bishops Certificate came as a huge relief!
Around 9 months ago I had an experience I felt I had to share with the current Alpha course, and Ben kindly gave me the opportunity.
I had had chronic pain for 18 months and was going through a bad patch; I had seen the GP that morning and an hour or so later bumped into an acquaintance. He said I didn’t look well and I explained. He was off to a meeting but asked if we could pray together. He started off with general prayers but then prayed for my healing. As he prayed my joints went warm and I could feel the pain and stiffness leaving. I left feeling better, but would never have actively looked for healing- it just sort of happened! Once more the world was a clearer brighter place, just like the Holy Spirit day. My husband’s reaction was “I have always known you were mad!” but was amazed at the transformation that evening when he came home, he said he felt as if he had got his wife back. I felt privileged to share this experience as part of the session on healing and received warm and caring response from the group
Alpha taught me to have a visceral response to God, in all three manifestations, which has enriched my life, and our family life and I am looking forward to what comes next. I hope our second son and my husband have a comparable experience when they do it next year.