I wish I had a grand story of conversion to share with you – one in which I come from a life rife with sin and suffering, discover Alpha, hear the word of God, and then have a moment where it all makes sense (hallelujah). Then in my born again story, of course, I would fall into Christ’s arms, live happily ever after, have no identity crises, have no melt downs, the end.
That story would make a great story. There would be rising action, climax, and the happy conclusion of joining the church in a marriage to Christ, as a good Shakespearian comedy might end. But my story, in contrast, is more like bleak, French cinema. It’s pretty anticlimactic.
I first started going to church with a friend from high school. I found that I enjoyed the experience of church, especially the tangible energy in the air when the congregation prayed together. After I moved away for university, I attended churches sporadically, but I couldn’t find one I really connected to. I moved to Vancouver to start my career and suddenly found myself with more time and fewer social connections. What I found at St. Pete’s was the church I had been missing since grade twelve, and then some.
I heard about Alpha during a service and thought, “I am totally the target person for this program. I am ‘spiritual, but not religious’ – that common refrain. I have questions, I am interested in learning more, and I want to get know people in this church so I can stop sitting alone in the back row with my arms crossed, feeling defensive.”
My one friend at St. Pete’s invited me to Alpha, and she was quite brave in doing so, because I am definitely the person you would be afraid to invite to Alpha. I am an INTJ, if that means anything. Hilary Clinton is also an INTJ, if that means anything. I might seem a little aloof at times, but I’m not actually all that scary! I’m glad she invited me, because I absolutely loved Alpha.
I wouldn’t have lasted ten minutes if someone at Alpha had tried to talk me into loving Jesus, but no one tried to didactically teach me. Rather, it was through being asked questions and answering them that I discovered truth in Christianity. Socrates would have been proud.
At the end, we were asked to fill out feedback forms. One of the questions asked, “Before Alpha did you consider yourself a Christian?” I easily checked no. The next question was, “How would you describe yourself now?” I felt none of the options applied. Instead, I expressed that I was not in a static state of either Christian or non-Christian, but simply further along the path of defining my spirituality in the context of Christianity. I know, anticlimactic.
While I did not had a dramatic spiritual awakening during Alpha, it did help me pass a critical point. I was at serious risk of “flaking out” prior to Alpha, and it, along with my community group, guided me towards commitment to church. I am showing up, meeting wonderful people, and gradually seeing the benefits of loving God, feeling God’s love. I like to think that God brought me to St. Pete’s and friendships convinced me to stay.