Short talks from people who’ve done Alpha in Walton recorded at the 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 & 2013 Alpha Launches and the 10 & 15 years of Alpha celebration events.

Fifteen years of Alpha

Short talks from people who’ve done Alpha in Walton-on-Thames
Recorded at 15 years of Alpha – Evening Praise – September 2017

 

The Alpha Launch 2015

Short talks from people who’ve done Alpha in Walton-on-Thames recently
Recorded at the 2015 Alpha Launch
St John’s Church – Thursday 10th September 2015

The Alpha Launch 2014

Short talks from people who’ve done Alpha in Walton-on-Thames
Recorded at the 2014 Alpha Launch
St John’s Church – Thursday 11th September 2014

The Alpha Launch 2013

Short talks from people who’ve done Alpha in Walton-on-Thames
Recorded at the Alpha Launch – Thursday 12th September 2013

Ten years of Alpha

Short talks from people who’ve done Alpha in Walton-on-Thames
Recorded at 10 years of Alpha – Spirit Level, Sunday 13th January 2013

Below you’ll find a variety of stories from people who have done Alpha here in Walton over the last 16 years.

Spring 2019

Emptiness & fear

I grew up in a loving family in Hong Kong. My family occasionally took me and my sister to Buddhist temples but I wouldn’t call myself a believer. I thought religions were personal choices. I wanted to be kind and successful and I believed in myself. I went to university. I have a good career. I got married to Michael. We bought a house. We had our first child Bella. I have been achieving what I wanted one by one, but yet, somehow I felt empty. What I achieved didn’t filled my emptiness. I didn’t know what that emptiness was about. I never discussed this with anyone. Life is busy, who has the time to stop and talk about the purpose of life.

My confusion in life got worse when our first child Bella was born. It was supposed to be the best moment in life to become a mother, but I was extremely anxious and depressed. Michael and I argued a lot. I thought I married the wrong man. I tried to treat myself with shopping. But after months, they were never used as I didn’t need them. I went back to my parents and stayed with them for two months while they helped me to look after Bella. However, when I was back home, I felt even more depressed. I then went back to work, I thought things would get better. However, everything just got worse. I had a strong feeling of fear but I didn’t know how to deal with it. I told myself: “This is life, just be brave and carry on.”

Starting from a coincidence

On one Friday, I took a day off work and met a local friend. She invited me to a toddler activity near where I live. I thought it would be nice. So I picked up Bella from nursery after lunch and took her there. When I arrived, I realised it was a Christian activity – Toddler Praise. Although Bella had a great time, I felt it was not for us because of my family’s Buddhism background. However, on that day, I discovered the St Mary’s Church that I didn’t know, having living in Walton for a few years.

One Sunday morning, when Michael and I was walking down to the high street with Bella, we saw a lot of parents going into St Mary’s with their children. Out of curiosity, we went inside. We thought we could just easily blend in like the other parents without being noticed. We were sitting at the very back observing. During that service, we received so much joy and peace! The joy and peace brought us back to the St Mary’s in the following weeks. However, although we were enjoying the peace every time we came to the Church, we didn’t feel we belong to here. We felt we were just strangers.

When the Vicar, Jonny sent us an email said he would like to visit us. We worried that he came to verify if we were Christian. However, he made us feel so welcome that he accepted our Buddhism background. He answered a lot of our questions and he introduced us to Alpha course. We were highly hesitated about it and we thought we wouldn’t have time for it.

Alpha Course

When Alpha started in September last year, our house was being refurbished and we were living in a temporary accommodation in Hampton Court. The daily new travelling was already a nightmare. We also had to check progress of the work in our house. I thought it was not sensible to do even more travelling at night for a course. However, Michael had a strong desire to go. Every night Michael came back from Alpha, he was excited and full of energy. I also noticed he started to change. He became calmer, more positive, more caring and more forgiving. We argued less. He was different. He was baptised and confirmed in November last year. He also reunited with his parents and siblings, letting go his painful childhood memories. His changes touched my heart.

When he came back from Alpha celebration dinner, he told me everyone in Alpha prayed for me to attend the next Alpha course starting in January. I was touched but at the same time I worried. I thought I wouldn’t have time for it – I am a full time working mum with a 2 years old! But I didn’t want to disappoint those prayed for me. They helped Michael a lot. So I thought, I would at least go to the first session to say thank you and then I drop out.

At the first session, I was amazed. It was very relaxing started with a meal prepared for us and then a video just like a movie night. The group discussion answered so many of those never answered life questions in my head. It was so open that I could ask any questions and people won’t feel offended. John, the leader of the course is so knowledgeable and one of the kindest men I have ever met. Alex and Harry were so helpful and the people in the group were so friendly.

I started to look forward to the next session. I was filed with so much energy and positivity after each session. I even went back home waking up Michael to get him to chat with me about what I heard in Alpha.

I was also surprised by the amount of evidence there is for the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. I was amazed to learn how many famous scientists were Christian. Jesus demonstrated the greatest way of love and forgiveness. In the modern and highly materialistic world, conflicts are mostly caused by lack of love and forgiveness. As a mum, there is no better way to show my child what the greatest love and forgiveness is without telling her who Jesus is. I don’t want her to grow up not knowing the purpose of life. I want her to live her life in full. It will be one of the best things we can give it to her.

New Heart & My Lord

At the beginning, I was told about having a personal relationship with Jesus. I didn’t understand what it was meant. However, slowly, through the changes in me, I now understand. Some changes are so personal and I never thought I can be changed again in my age. He gave me a new heart; he filled my emptiness; he calmed me down when I pray; he taught me how to love; he repaired my family, and he sent healing to my mum even though she was not a believer.

So is life all easy now?

I have seen God answer some prayers in amazing ways. But life continues to offer lots of challenges.  My family is still under some difficult situations now, but I am surprised how peacefully we have been dealing with all these. In the past, I would have been mad.

New Friends & My Church

Since the Alpha, we met a lot of new friends. Friends who encourage us, pray for us, genuinely care about us. They were like those friends we knew for a long time. We no longer feel we are the strangers of the Church. It’s our Church and we are proud to be part of it.

 

There’s always been a hole at my centre. At the very core of me, there’s always been something missing; something I’ve always felt I could fill with enough of this, or enough of that, or enough of whatever.

I was born into a pretty ordinary family, no real dysfunctionality, apart from my Dad being in the R.A.F and therefore having to move around a lot as a kid. I grew up in Malta, my Dad got based at R.A.F. Luqa, and although my memory is sketchy wholesale, I remember two things vividly. The first was my Dad frying an egg on the bonnet of his Renault 12, and the second was trying to run across the road with no flip-flops…I couldn’t do it…it was just too hot.

The first thing I remember about the U.K. was landing at Manchester airport and feeling cold rain. It came from the sky and it was cold, what was this, had someone up there turned the warm rain off? I was 10 years old, and had to start school again, the new boy again, I didn’t have the luxury of already formed friendships, I had to try and act like it didn’t bother me…again. A year of school in Yorkshire until my Dad found us a house in North Wales near to where he’d been posted in R.A.F Sealand, near Chester, then another year (again as new boy), in yet another school. It was like a roller-coaster of trying to fit in, trying to adapt. It was like running all the time, just to stand still. Exhausting.

I don’t know if this was the reason that I always felt different….but I did. I never once, during my early years, felt like I belonged…to anyone, or anything. I always felt like a fraud, a trickster, someone who was constantly just managing to keep my head above water; never drowning but never letting anyone see what effort it took to stop from going under….it was taking its toll.

I was always pretty damn good. At home and at school. I could always make people think anything I wanted them to. I actually excelled at school, but never let any of my new friends know it was easy. I took to most things I put my hands to. I auditioned for the school play during the last (my first) year at primary school and got the lead part. It was whilst on stage at ten years old that I knew what I wanted to do with my life…I wanted to act, after all, I’d spent the first decade of my life doing just this.

During secondary school, I did finally make some real friends. My Dad stop getting posted here there and everywhere, so I finally had some stability, but the feeling of being the new boy never really left me. I always felt as if I didn’t really belong, or, probably, more honestly, that I didn’t deserve to. There was a hole inside me that I needed to fill, and I didn’t know how to. Despite my achievements, I never felt I deserved them, I never felt truly good enough.

I left school at 16 and joined the R.A.F…it didn’t work out.

Some people need a disciplined structure to their lives, routines and rules, regulations and they have the ability to take orders…I’m the antithesis of this. I’m creative, inventive, imaginative and exactly the type of person who shouldn’t ever have these things stifled…although of course, I knew nothing of this at the time.

I came out feeling like I’d failed at something for the first time in my life, and then I discovered a cure for feeling like this….alcohol. After a few drinks, it didn’t matter. After a few drinks, I felt just like I assumed everyone else felt…comfortable. Comfortable with the world around me…comfortable in my own skin. It was lovely.

Having discovered what I thought to be the elixir for life and for happiness thereafter, I took it to excess, obviously. My Mum nicknamed me All or Nothing when I was about 7 (show me the boy at 7 and I’ll show you the man), and once I was on this treadmill, there was no getting off…I’d found what I was born to do….drink. I was good at it, it came naturally….and then I discovered drugs too….surely this was what life was all about. Surely.

The next 20 odd years passed by in a haze, they actually passed me by, without me even noticing: I got married, I had a son, I got divorced, I got jobs, I lost jobs, so I got more jobs, lost more jobs, girlfriends, fiancés even, pregnancies/terminations… then ecstasy, raves, arrests, police cells, stories to tell down the pub, stories that meant I was someone, rooms I lived in, sofa’s I’d stay on, always with a drink in my hand or a spliff in my mouth….a crazy 20 years…the golden years I called them at one point. Ha…the golden years.

The thing is see…I saw madness as a competition…and I never lost. I needed validation…and I couldn’t validate myself. I needed it externally, I needed people to see me, and even if I couldn’t be the best at something, I needed to then be the worst…because at least that was a talking point.

I had no faith. No faith in the world around me, no faith in the words people said, or in the actions I witnessed, but more importantly than any of that…I had no faith in me. I was in free-fall, and I knew it, and I didn’t care.

I drank and I drugged for 23 years before something happened. Those 23 years were crazy, senseless and hard. They were exhausting and they left me emotionally and spiritually bankrupt, but I couldn’t stop…I knew nothing else. Then, 12 years ago, I was out one Saturday night, and I got beaten up, battered to within an inch of my life. I spent 8 days in a coma, sustained 3 skull fractures, and a subdural haematoma. I had to learn how to walk and talk again, but even this….all this wasn’t enough to stop me.

I’d been out of hospital for 10 months when I finally hit my rock bottom, and that Wednesday afternoon in August of 2007 was (I now truly believe), the first time that I allowed myself to feel God’s presence. I was finally getting ready to let him in.

I’d never been an atheist, I simply wasn’t that brave. Instead I took a stance of just in case, so I suppose that made me an agnostic, atheism for cowards maybe, I don’t know.

I knew I was on the precipice, I had a choice to make. Live or die. So….

I started going to meetings, to AA meetings, and I finally, one step, one day at a time, got sober, got clean and gradually began to know I was being guided by some kind of higher power other than myself. I started praying, for the first time in my life, but I never really knew what I was praying to, who I was praying to or who was listening to these things I was saying late at night whilst on my knees in the dark. But it didn’t matter…it was working.

I stayed clean and sober for over 5 years, but then something happened and I picked up again. I let my meetings slip; other things became more important, and I forgot what it meant for me to drink, because for me, to drink is to end all other things….life, and all the good things that life means.

I started to feel as if I was missing something again, that ‘hole in my soul’ had come back. I was praying but it seemed empty. The relationship I’d formed with my higher power couldn’t sustain me through times of hardship and temptation any more. I needed something else.

A close friend of my girlfriend gave me a shout about this thing called Alpha, a course that was meant to get you believing in a Christian God, and Jesus. I’d always cried shy of any organised religion, I couldn’t get the logical side of my brain to believe in an immaculate conception or even a resurrection, but I decided to go, to have a look, see what it was all about….and thank God I did.

I went along to the course in Walton-on-Thames armed with thousands of questions, and I left with a million more, but over the course of the 3 months that Alpha ran, I gradually came to believe in, not a higher power of my understanding, but in God, and Jesus and the Gospel and everything I now know that I’ve been looking for my entire adult life.

The hole inside of me is, and always has been…God shaped. I spent my life in fear, but now I have faith. I simply can’t hold the both things in the same hand, one has to squeeze the other out, it has to….and so, from now on, I choose faith…it’s that simple.

It’s only the truly insane that never question their sanity. I’ve been insane most of my life, making the same mistakes, repeating the same patterns of behaviour and expecting different results, but now I don’t. I know now who I’m praying to, and I no longer feel the need to change things; the way I feel, the world around me, or the people in it.

I’ve lived the last 12 years with M.S. I was diagnosed in early sobriety, the first symptom of which was the loss of sight in my left eye, but there are two different ways I can look at this. I can either feel sorry for myself oh no, I’ve only got one eye…or,  thank you God, I’ve still got one eye….and one of the main things I give thanks for when I pray is that God has always given me a glass half-full mentality, and for that I am truly thankful.

I take part in life again thanks to my relationship with God and Jesus. I’m back on stage, acting, where I believe I belong. I’ve got a degree in English and a Masters in Playwriting. My first play is being produced later in the year and I’m busy re-writing another. This all fuels my creativity, something which is an inherent need in me, just like food, just like oxygen.

God hasn’t just given me a second chance, he’s given me hundreds. He never abandoned me when I was in the depths of despair from my addictions….I simply wasn’t ready to accept him into my life. I have something now which is more precious to me than anything I’ve ever had…a newfound freedom and a newfound happiness, all through the realisation of God in my life, and for this I feel truly blessed…So thank you Clare for letting me know about Alpha, thank you to Alex and John, who ran it, and thank you to everyone who did the course with me, everyone who helped out and specially the cooks, who didn’t half cook us some nice dinners along the way. Thank you all!

 

Steve Webb. (Alcoholic. Drug Addict…… Christian.)

Autumn 2018

Why did I do Alpha?

I recently attended the Alpha Course and wanted to share some of my experiences. Firstly a bit of background: my father is a Vicar and I have always been to church, but in latter years I haven’t belonged to a church or attended regular worship. When I moved to Walton I decided I wanted to change this, so my husband and I started attending St Mary’s and really enjoyed the services. After a year of attending I realised that I still did not know anybody, and it was time to take the next step. I saw the Alpha Course advertised and decided to attend. However, I only rang up to enquire two nights before the course started, and at that time was having doubts. I secretly hoped it would be full!

On the first night I stood outside St John’s church wondering whether to go in or not; it is hard to take that initial step, especially when you know nobody. I need not have worried as I was greeted by a warm and friendly group of people.

The Alpha Course follows a series of topics that are fundamental to the Christian faith. Each week we would have a meal together, watch a talk, and then break into small discussion groups. There was no pressure and always the opportunity to ask any question. I expected to enjoy the course on an intellectual level; I did not expect the experience to personally affect my faith. A pivotal point was the Holy Spirit weekend, where we joined with Holy Trinity Brompton and other churches for a weekend of fellowship. It turned out to be a fantastic event where the Holy Spirit was explored through excellent worship. My experience has resulted in a blossoming of my faith and making new friends. The Alpha Course is a credit to the church.

May 2008

Alpha- a personal perspective

In September 2002, our parish teamed up with the Baptist Church in Walton to run a joint Alpha course and I was asked to be a helper. I had heard a lot about Alpha and seen the adverts on the back of buses and in the press so it was with some curiosity that I agreed to take part. I feel that I must confess that my preconceptions of Alpha were wrong. I thought that it would be very pushy and too ‘happy-clappy’ for me. I am a pillar-and-pew sort of Anglican and not given to sudden outbursts of ‘Praise the Lord’ and hand waving.

Alpha is an 11-week course and currently there is a morning course with a creche for preschool children and an evening Alpha that begins with a meal and a chance for a chat with the others on the course. The topic of religion is not encouraged at supper- that comes later! Then there is a video during which Nicky Gumbel (who is a member of the clergy team at Holy Trinity Church, Brompton) talks on the subject of the week e.g. Why did Jesus die? How can I be sure of my Faith? And afterwards there is the chance to discuss the talk in the small groups. These are a group of 10-12 people made up of a leader and two helpers and eight or nine guests.

Many of the topics provoke questions that trouble us all at some time in our lives and Church is not always the place to raise them but during Alpha we are given the opportunity to explore these ideas more fully, to explore the meaning of life.

There is a good reason why the logo is ? Alpha provides a safe environment to ask questions that have arisen from the talks or other areas of our lives.

Alpha is strongly Bible-based and the methodical layout helps to fill in the gaps in our knowledge and experience but the talks are not dry and dusty. They are funny and encouraging, they seem to build you up and not judge you. I am left with a strong sense that developing my faith can be fun and uplifting and not a series of hoops to jump through or tasks to be completed.

Taking part in Alpha as a helper or leader has given me the opportunity to get to know people from different parts of the church community. There is a feeling of a shared journey whether you are a leader, helper or guest.

For me the real difference is that I now have a personal relationship with God through his Son Jesus. I am a ‘cradle’ Christian, brought up on Bible stories and prayers every night so I knew that God was there but my relationship with him was more like that of an elderly grandfather. I would visit on special occasions, ask for help in emergencies and then not bother him for months.

Alpha has changed the way I lead my life, the way I make decisions, how I use my time, everything. I would encourage you to come and find out for yourselves. No matter how long you have been coming to church don’t form your opinion until you have tried it. Be bold. Try Alpha. How bad can it be?

February 2004

Thank you, Alpha

At the risk of sounding like the mother in Miranda Hart’s hilarious sitcom I never knew becoming a Christian was going to be ‘such fun’!  I thought it meant being pious and serious and would mean doing all sorts of things I didn’t really want to do.  And anyway doing as I was told had never been part of my make up!  But I found none of this was true.  Every day I trust that God’s plans for me are good and that He will always be at my side and yes, I am willing to do as He tells me.

I realise now that God started preparing me for this time about five years ago as I found myself having to draw on an inner strength I never knew I had.  Looking back I realise that I was being prepared well in advance and that the Holy Spirit had set to work in my life some time ago.

I went to a Catholic day school in Weybridge and was taught by nuns from the age of four until I left at the age of sixteen.  Although my parents were not Catholic they liked the school.  I suspect that as the pupils wore white gloves in the summer they probably thought a school like this would turn me in to a young lady…that is for others to say whether this happened or not but I don’t think my parents choice of school for me was anything to do with religion but simply that they believed it was a good school.

Apart from the church services at school I only went to church occasionally with my family and can’t even recall which church we went to.  It was a case of ‘hatches, matches and dispatches’ and like many others we would visit at Christmas and Easter and would not call ourselves regular churchgoers.  My father tells me he always says his prayers at night and my mother describes herself as an agnostic though she did say that when I was seriously ill as a small child and in and out of hospital that she made a deal with God and only asked for one thing and that thing was that I would get better.   So the prayers of an agnostic can be answered after all…

I was one of only three non-Catholics in my class at school and always felt something of an outsider.  The non-Catholics were told ‘You are welcome to come to the services but you don’t have to’.  Although I did go to the services this affected my feelings around religion in a profoundly negative way as I always felt that church was there but that I was not truly welcome.

When in 1992 Alex and I were married at St Nicolas Church in Cranleigh, a village near my family home, I loved the wedding ceremony more than any other part of the day.  I felt so happy and at peace that I didn’t want it to end, I just wanted to stay forever in the church with my new husband, in God’s presence, that beautiful Spring day.

A few years later when our first child was baptised at St Nicolas I mentioned in passing to the vicar, Nigel Nicolson, that  I would like to get more involved in the church in Walton-on-Thames.  He told this news to the vicar at St Mary’s and one morning  I found my local vicar introducing himself to me on the doorstep whilst I stood awkwardly in my dressing gown holding our tiny first- born child.  To be perfectly frank this visit disturbed me greatly as I felt I wanted to come to church in my own time and this unannounced visit, though kindly meant, did not feel right.  It was clearly not the best time for me to make any way forward as to where my potential faith might take me.

Over the next ten years or so something was happening as I still felt I wanted to get involved but didn’t quite know how to go about it.  I now had two beautiful daughters and even though Linda (Muggleton) encouraged me to bring them to Toddler’s Praise, something still held me back.  Although I had attended some of the services at St Mary’s and St John’s (school events, Christmas etc) I was aware of an overriding feeling that somehow I just didn’t belong.

Once again I felt the Holy Spirit’s presence when, in 2008, my mother became unwell and was in hospital for some months.  She developed septicaemia and then was in a coma for several days.  I drove home from the hospital believing she would not survive the night but that night, in a vivid dream, I saw a vision of her moving towards my bed and I was compelled to sit bolt upright.  A vision of my mother stood before me wearing a pale green suit and a serene, peaceful expression on her face.  I sensed that God was with her and that he was telling me that she was going to be alright.   I slept soundly that night for the first time in several days.

Then I was truly tested.  In 2010 we found out that our eldest daughter had been suffering from a serious psychiatric illness for some years although we were unaware of this.  We were shocked that this had come to light and that her illness suddenly presented an alarming challenge for us all as a family.  In 2011 she spent six months in a psychiatric hospital.    She has now been discharged and we have much to be thankful for.  She received lots of support (some good and some not so good from the psychiatric profession), most especially this support came from our friends and my wonderful bible group and she is doing well.  Her faith is so important to her.

She had found her own faith at eleven years of age when she started going to the Christian Union sessions at her secondary school and did Junior Alpha.  She had also formed a bond with the Lost Property lady at school!  This special lady recognised that God was calling our daughter and encouraged her greatly as her faith developed.

I am guessing the reason you are reading this is that you are wondering what Alpha could mean for you.  My advice would be to go along to the introduction evening with an open mind and see how it feels.  If you still aren’t too sure you might just be curious to find out what it’s all about and feel you want to go again.  Remember you don’t need to try too hard for if you seek God, He will find you.  Taking the first step may be all you need to do in the first place.   God will do everything else.  And don’t be scared by how friendly the helpers are, you will soon get used to this and also get used to the delicious food that you will be served before the evening gets underway!

Nicky Gumbel’s videos are great to watch.  He makes everything easy to understand, throws in some jokes too and the way his wife Pippa lovingly gazes at him as he speaks is just so lovely!  After the video there is plenty of time to explore the video’s main topic and to ask all those questions that are on your mind.  However silly your question might seem to you, it doesn’t feel at all silly to ask, as John Muggleton and all the helpers on the course make it feel so comfortable and natural to ask what you need to know.

The Alpha Weekend in Sussex is the icing on the cake when you will get to deepen your friendship with the other people on the course, get some amazing insights and it is great fun as well.  The walk on the beach is always energizing and it gets you in the mood for the party in the evening.

After the weekend there are a few more sessions and then there is the Alpha Celebration Dinner at the end which is always a beautiful occasion.   What follows may be an opportunity to join a bible group if you wish to, visits to HTB and events such as Pentecost at the O2, yes a proper Christian rock concert! – and much more.

So where did Alpha come in for me? Doing an Alpha course has transformed my life!  That is not to say my journey to this point was always easy but don’t let that put you off, not for a second.

Alpha came along, just like God does, with perfect timing!  Carol Abson, who has taught our girls Suzuki piano, told us about the Alpha course as our eldest daughter and I had mentioned we were thinking of getting confirmed together.  It turned out that because of the difference in our ages it was tricky for us to do the same confirmation class at St Marys, but Carol told us that if we did the Alpha course together this could lead to us to being confirmed at the end of the course if we wanted it to.

Guess what, we did! We were confirmed together in December 2010 and haven’t looked back.  This is my testimony but I have a feeling that further testimonies from the Phillips family may well follow, at least this is what I hope with all my heart.  Thank you Lord for the amazing work you have been doing in my family so far and thank you very, very much Alpha!

January 2012

Alpha was not for me

In the last couple of years I had been approached to do an Alpha course on numerous occasions, even by my own husband. However I felt it wasn’t for me. I already had a strong faith and had recently been confirmed a couple of years before. I already regularly went to Meditation evenings and attended numerous different church services. I religiously went to all the Lent Services and have done some courses e.g. Approaches to Prayer. I felt what more could I gain from Alpha? I had a perceived view that Alpha was for new Christians or for someone who was trying to find a faith. How wrong was I to be proved!

One winter’s night I was approached by Caroline Merrick, who said that she would very much like me to be on her daytime Alpha course. I said I would seriously think about it, but I didn’t have time to fit it in. I was adamant that it was not for me. However when I got home late that night, I wrote all the Alpha Course dates in my diary. I cannot explain why and I was so annoyed with myself, because I desperately needed some time out in my busy schedule.

Something made me attend the first meeting. I sat there wondering why I had come, and thinking of all the things that would I rather be doing. It was a precious Friday morning when both my boys were at school, I could be better off spending some indulgent time for me – but the course was later to change the whole foundation of my faith. It brought me closer to God and was a very moving, emotional ten weeks. Throughout the whole course I was very ill and I could so easily have spent the day in bed, but something made me drag myself out every morning to attend. I owe a huge thank you to everyone that prayed for me.

Initially, I had a conception that it would be a bit boring, going over issues that I had already dealt with. In reality it was very enlightening and Nicky Gumbel is a very powerful, entrancing speaker who brings a new edge to searching issues. However he made me realise that God does not force his way into our lives but through prayer it is up to us to invite him in.

While I was there I felt spiritually fulfilled, something I had never truly felt before. I was among fellow Christians and my faith was progressing to an even higher level than I had ever imagined would be possible. It taught me family values, everyday life issues, that God forgives us – and it forced me to re-evaluate my faith and look closer within. I also learnt that I could ask for help, guidance and forgiveness from God for myself. In the past I had always prayed for other people, not for myself.

The most moving experience was the Holy Spirit weekend when we had a wonderful day with lunch and talks. Nicky Gumbel had given an illustration that Christians are like coals – if you take them out of the fire they soon become dark and cold – when you put them back they quickly become glowing hot again. My coal was once smouldering outside the fire but now it was ablaze in the heart of the fire.

We can say that we believe in the Trinity, but it is another thing to put our trust in the Lord. Alpha opened my eyes to this concept. Since doing Alpha I have put some of my more personal problems in the hands of God and I have had several of them answered. A couple of answers were definitely miraculous – things that I thought were not possible. On reflection I am so glad that I attended the course. I got so much out of it, more than I could have imagined at first.

I have now gone on to attend two home groups – something I had also never wanted to do. However after doing Alpha I feel the need to go – to learn more about my faith and to keep my coal alight.

My confirmation path started me on my journey and a greater understanding of the Eucharist and I will never be able to thank Gay Horrex enough in helping me on my path. However Alpha has now greatly deepened my faith and given me an inner spiritual peace and an understanding of the Lord our Father.

August 2004