Blog May 18th Alpha

“Give Us A Heart on Fire” proceeded by “All Authority” featuring the Original Cast from album Risen! The Musical recorded and produced by Joffy Girling

Last blog I said that I often draw attention to people who are generally regarded as cool and who are also Christians- for example Bear Grylls, Usain Bolt and Jürgen Klopp. I then went on to feature another -the Rugby Union player Mara Itoje.

In that list is the adventurer Bear Grylls who no one on Planet Earth could suggest is anything but a pretty cool guy. He is at present fronting the Alpha Course which seeks to introduce the basics of the Christian faith through a series of talks and discussions. It is described as “an opportunity to explore the meaning of life.” Alpha courses are run in churches, homes, workplaces, prisons, universities and a wide variety of other locations. The Alpha website states that the course has been run in 169 countries and 112 languages, with over 27 million people having taken part.

I should add that it is not the only course introducing people to the Christian faith – there is for example also the excellent “Christianity Explored” which I will look at on another occasion but Alpha had a great influence on me and it was during a course some 20 years ago that I became a Christian. Here is an extract from a blog I wrote some years ago describing the experience:

It starts off with me accepting an invitation from by dear friend Bob Milliken (Mr Mill) who was the Head of RE at Crofton School where I was Head of PE. After many years of refusing invitations to his church I eventually said yes and went to a Service at Porchester Baptist Church with my son Chris, who was about 12 at the time. Here I met Mr Mill’s father who had been a missionary in the Belgian Congo. At the end of the service I asked Mr Milliken if his wife, who had died two years previously, was in heaven and I was astounded by the simplicity and absolute belief by which he replied with a very simple but firm “Yes.” I took Mr Milliken back to his sheltered accommodation in Titchfield with Chris and we listened in awe to his stories of being a missionary.

The next day I rang Mr Mill to say how amazing I thought his dad was – he of course agreed with me. I told Mr Mill that I felt I wanted to go to Midnight Mass that evening and would he come with me. Mr Mill said that his church did not do Midnight Mass but that he would go with me to the church near Crofton School – Holy Rood.

Now often on Christmas Eve I would be down the local pubs having more than a few beers with ex- students so I was rather embarrassed about missing out the Red Lion and Cuckoo Pint and going to Holy Rood. Nevertheless I thought it would be worth it as the heavens would, no doubt, open up for me and I would experience something “spiritual.” However nothing very exciting happened in the Service but at the end a member of Crofton School’s Senior Leadership, Paul Knight, told me he was doing an Alpha Course and would I like to go. I thought “No Way!” Paul is now a close friend but at that time he was simply a member of the Senior Leadership Team so there was no chance of me going to an Alpha course led by him.

All that Christmas holiday I kept bumping into Paul – every time I was invited to a mince pie afternoon he would be there and each time ask the same thing – would I go on an Alpha Course? It turned out that he was not actually leading the course – just attending. He also said that my old mate Paul Hiscock of the Tech department was going so I did soften a bit but not enough to say “Yes.” At the final mince pie afternoon Paul asked me again and exasperated I said “Paul I can’t make Wednesdays – I am coaching Basketball” He replied “It’s on a Tuesday.” I was speechless – I had run out of excuses and so found myself one Tuesday passing the Red Lion and praying (well not really) that I would not be seen going into the Church opposite to my first Alpha night.

I was greeted by a smiling person (obviously a “Do Gooder” I thought) and presented with a badge with my name on it. I expected everyone to be wearing Jesus sandals and when I saw that someone actually was I decided to beat a hasty retreat. -however I then I smelt the curry. Now curry is the staple diet of PE students and teachers so I decided to delay by escape until after I had sampled the Korma.

During the meal I spoke to a lovely lady called Margaret who asked me what I was doing there and when I had difficulty in answering he reassured me that she too was unsure why she was there.

Tasty curry over – perhaps I should give the Vicar a chance? He looked a pretty cool guy and was not wearing a dog collar – not that I had a problem with that – So here we go to the ice cold pews for a boring sermon on Christ dying for my sins just like my past experiences as a choir boy. Actually no not at all! We went upstairs in the Church Centre to a warm and pleasant room with sofas – all rather nice and relaxing. The Vicar, Michael Christian- Edwards (appropriate name I thought) who has also become a dear friend started off with a joke and quite a good one at that – the laughter relaxed everyone and then Michael talked about whether or not Jesus really did exist. I really enjoyed the talk and even more the opportunity to ask questions afterwards- which I did in abundance. What about this and what about that – Michael answered all my questions with patience and great knowledge. I went home thinking I wonder? But there was no way really that I could ever become a Christian – what would my mates say? I would be a laughing stock – “Jesus Freak” and “Bible Basher.” However I went back the next week and then the next and then the next and then, and then – well the rest as they say is history.