I run my own design company in the Black Country.Can I emphasise that I’m not special, I haven’t been singled out by God, I’m a very ordinary bloke, living a very ordinary life and using Alistair Campbell’s words, I didn’t do ‘God’!!
Until ‘Alpha’ that is.
The reason why I did the Alpha Course was because I’m a designer and I had to produce some Alpha Business Card artwork for one of my customers. There was a little bit of text on the back describing what Alpha was about - and it stirred my interest.
When my wife told me that the NEW vicar, Ben was doing Alpha Courses I made enquiries - without hesitation, Ben had me signed up before I could blink.
The Alpha Course, presented by Ben is fantastic and HE and IT have changed my life.
This is how:
After a few weeks of attending the Alpha Course I found it fascinating.
For me, it simplified the teachings of the New Testament. I found it relevant to today’s life and society and quite different to the harsh teachings of the Scriptures that we received at West Bromwich Grammar School back in the 1960’s.
Saturday 1st March however, was the start of an emotional roller coaster ride for me.
It was Alpha’s Holy Spirit Day here at St. Barts which, during that day, I said to Ben was one of the Church’s Best Kept Secrets. For example, courses in Transcendental Meditation had been thrust upon us at College for a cost of 2,000 dollars. Hence I never did one. In contrast, I had now found out, 3 months ago that the Anglican Church had a much more truthful, effective and powerful ‘experience’ which was FREE - it cost absolutely nothing and it was called ‘Receiving The Holy Spirit’.Trouble is, the Church doesn’t tell anyone about it! That’s why I refer to it as the ‘Church’s Best Kept Secret’. Likewise, a friend puts it in a nutshell, ‘The Holy Spirit Day – it’s like going to a health farm for a day, but it’s a darn sight cheaper’.
The experience of Holy Spirit Day took me on a high for 4 days, left me with a warm glow, a smile on my face and I saw good in everyone that I came in contact with. But by the following Wednesday evening, the 4th day after the Holy Spirit Day, the effects of the Holy Spirit started to melt away.
It was the middle of the night, 2 o’clock on the Thursday morning, I woke up arguing with myself - I even started to accuse Ben and Reverend Pauline of lacing our coffee. It was tearing my head apart. I couldn’t sleep. I wanted the ‘old’ Gary back. I didn’t want to do this God stuff anymore. I accused the Holy Spirit of hypnotising me, it was screwing me up.
My worst experience of the night was the constant battle that I was having, arguing whether Jesus and God were real. I kept telling myself that it was a load of superstitious nonsense but then arguing back to myself that it was real - it must be real - that’s why the Holy Spirit Day had made me feel so good.
By 5.30am I had to get out of bed, and go to work.
I was exhausted. Driving to work I couldn’t bring myself to listen to John Humphries on Radio 4 - a programme that I always listen to. I didn’t want any serious stuff today, thank you very much.
So I changed my frame of mind - let’s have some hard rock - let’s get the old Gary Potter back - all this God stuff is doing my head in! So I rocked away with Freddie Mercury and Queen. Then as one of the Queen tracks came to an end, all of a sudden my player skipped onto the next album. My CD player never does this. It always repeats the same album.
What happened next, I’ll leave to your own opinion - some would say it was coincidence, but personally, if it was coincidence it was a remarkable coincidence, it was like God saying -
Gary, for goodness sake - wake up - smell the coffee - how much more convincing do you need from me.
...and this is what happened:
This next album, that my CD player had jumped onto, was by Corrine Bailey Rae - a modern, serious jazz singer - Corrine’s words hit me like a brick. They were so relevant to the way I had felt all night. They were answering the questions that had been tearing my head apart, they were saying:
"Just like a star across my sky,
Just like an angel off the page,
You have appeared to my life,
Feel like I'll never be the same,
Just like a song in my heart,
Just like oil on my hands,
Honour to love you’.
they went on...
I still I wonder why it is,
I don’t argue like this,
with anyone but you,
we do it all the time
and you’re blowing out my mind."
The next set of lines represented my reply...
"Now that I have come to understand, the way it is,
it’s NOT a SECRET anymore
cause we’ve been through that before –
from tonight I know you’re mine
and I know you’re the only one.
I’ve been confused and in the dark but now I understand"....etc. etc.
And through the words of Corrine’s song, the banter between God and me continued...Being the big softy that I am, by now, the tears were pouring down my face –Here was this 53 year old bloke, at 7.30 in the morning, driving through Tipton, having an emotional ‘God’ experience.I raced into work, switched on my computers and downloaded the words to Corrine’s song to prove to myself that I was hearing the words that I was hearing.
...and it was literally, ‘Oh my ‘God’ -
Nearly every single line was relevant, reflecting and answering the way I had been feeling during the night. I was starting to feel better already. What an impact the lyrics had on me! I can tell you that I reacted with a few very, very rich words -
...And that is my testimony. ...A testimony from a straightforward, very ordinary bloke - living a very ordinary life,who now does God.