“What is Alpha?” I thought, as my family and I entered PLC for the first time and noticed that big sign with an enormous Bear Grylls on it asking the question, “Is there more to life than this? Hmmm… Here is a little background on how we ended up at that place and time, pondering this probing question.
My wife Judy and I were both brought up in Christian homes. She was raised in a Catholic household and my family had attended a Presbyterian church from as long as I could remember. Our spiritual upbringings were similar. We had both attended regularly with our families but had drifted from the church as we reached adulthood. School, work, and a host of other things preoccupied us. We met and after dating for quite a while, got married in 1998.
In 2007 we were blessed with the birth of our son Andrew. Judy went from having a fairly routine pregnancy to a surprise ambulance ride to the ER. Our son came early (three months to be exact) and changed our perspective on life, love, and our individual belief systems forever. The moment I saw our 2.2 lb. wonder, I knew there was more to life than this. Almost instantly, I went through a broad range of emotions that are difficult to explain: joy in seeing this tiny little baby, fear of the unknown future, and intense love for these two people in my life.
We spent three months in the NICU, the first 5 weeks getting to know this little boy through the transparent walls of a sterile isolette. In the midst of our struggles, and the life and death human drama occurring all around us, we both returned to our Father, God, seeking His intervention in our lives. We did a lot of praying and each day we witnessed the Holy Spirit at work in our lives and in those around us. On Easter Sunday, we left the hospital as a family.
At nine months of age, our son returned again to the hospital for open heart surgery. His heart was repaired, and after three weeks in the hospital, we returned home again as a family. Once again, our Shepherd had been with us.
Fast forward three years. We knew that through God’s grace and love, we had been blessed immeasurably and were called to find a church and family to worship with. Once again, the Lord was at work in our lives. One Sunday afternoon we were talking to some friends of ours and asked them where they were coming from. They said, “Church.” Our reaction was, “You went to church dressed in shorts?” They explained that God doesn’t care what you wear; He just cares that you go. They invited us to go with them the next weekend. We went and felt an immediate connection with PLC.
Now, back to that first Sunday, and the big, thought-provoking Alpha poster. Not knowing anything about it, and thinking that a ten-week commitment might be a challenge, our initial thought was that it might be too much for our cluttered schedules. Who would watch our son? This and other questions were answered when we were treated to a personal testimonial on what Alpha meant to a past guest. That was it. We were in. We asked our neighbors who had told us about PLC what they knew about Alpha, and their response was “It is pretty cool. You will like it.”
What is Alpha? It was then, and remains to be, many things to me and my family. It is a place where a deeper understanding of the Holy Spirit can be attained in a safe, non-threatening, thought-provoking setting. It is a place where you can participate at whatever level you are comfortable (no pressure). Each evening starts with dinner and fellowship, followed by a series of insightful talks on a number of topics such as: the Bible, Jesus, prayer, the Holy Spirit and healing. Pastor Sean keeps it interesting and humorous. After the talk, guests meet in small groups to discuss the night’s topic. For Judy and I, the small group discussions have been one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable parts of the Alpha experience. Within the small groups, we have very much enjoyed making friends, getting perspective from others and sharing our experiences. It has been a source of inspiration and encouragement for us. The Alpha day away was also a very moving experience. The closeness to the Holy Spirit that we felt was amazing. It was unforgettable and has had a deep impact on our walk with Jesus.
Since then, my wife and I have attended a number of Alpha sessions and participated as small group helpers and hosts. We have met many wonderful people in Alpha and plan on staying connected in the future. Childcare is available. For the older children, Alpha Kidz (a children’s version of Alpha) is an option. Our son, Drew gives Alpha Kidz rave reviews.
Is there more to life than this?
We believe so…and Alpha has been a great place to get closer to Jesus.