Emmy from Nottingham explains how she became a Christian during Alpha Online last year
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” — Ephesians 2:8
Skin stuck to the worn leather sofa, a warm breeze swung through the house as I sat knees curled on a hot, summer’s Sunday. A flying weekend visit from university, I flicked down the television channels — relishing the luxury of having more than five to choose from; but irrespective of this, something stopped me on BBC’s much-loved Songs Of Praise anyway.
What started as a gratifying peculiarity soon turned into genuine fascination. Christians from across the UK had gathered to a huge spirit-led music festival, full to the brim with worship, prayer, families, sermons, unadulterated joy and most strikingly: people who looked like me. Footsteps approached the living room and, without second thought, my thumb had already hammered the channel up button. Somebody was knocking at the door but it was bolted; latch on; barricaded shut; head under the covers.
Three years passed and not so much as a whisper reminded me of that Songs Of Praise moment throughout those years. And yet suddenly, on a bitterly cold evening in February (Pancake Day to be exact) I found myself pacing against the sidewards rain and trying to balance on shiny, worn cobbles until I arrived, thoroughly sodden, at a church. Walking into a room full of friendly faces and smiles; two hours later I left with a beaming one of my own.
That was my first experience on the widely-acclaimed Alpha course and it would be the first step that changed everything.
Worrying news of the imminent pandemic spread, entire countries went into lockdown and the situation worsened; everything came to a halt. But not faith. There is no restriction, no tier level and certainly no pandemic that can put a stop to God’s magnificent work. Churches closed and small groups ceased to gather but what once was an in-person celebration of Christ seamlessly moved to an online one.
Alpha was the first step that changed everything
Except this time it’s more accessible, there’s more of us; those who once felt so shy walking into a congregation of 500 can enter a Zoom service with complete ease; those who worked unsociable hours could now watch services ‘on demand’; and those who live hours away from their former, but beloved, church can now tune in regardless of location. Through the miracle of human innovation, God continues to soften hearts and perform miracles via the gift of technology; and it was through this miracle in which the Holy Spirit knocked on my door once again.
Those who once felt so shy walking into a congregation of 500 can enter a Zoom service with complete ease
Some people have asked me “Was it hard finding faith during lockdown?” Or “Is it odd having never experienced ‘normal’ church?” And while, yes, I yearn for the unknown togetherness of in person worship and catching up with the friends I’ve made throughout this journey over coffee. But I haven’t done this alone. He has walked with me every step of the way, planting my roots into the rich soil of faith and intertwining me with those he knows will only strengthen my relationship with him further. With each month gone by, course completed, Bible verse studied, prayer said and worship sung; I felt my confidence in God grow more, my rootedness become stronger and the fruits I bear become more in his image.
The pandemic stole a lot of joy from our lives, but only through God did I gain more. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
With each month gone by, course completed, Bible verse studied, prayer said and worship sung; I felt my confidence in God grow more
We’ve heard it all before, 2020 was a particularly difficult year. Unprecedented some might say. Just like many others, I faced a tragic family loss, career fragility; mental health struggles, relationship tensions and a permanent state of uncertainty; yet when I reflect on the past year while it does hold a significant amount of grief, it also signifies a huge amount of strength, unwavering courage, and an overflow of God’s generous grace and love. These are gifts given graciously by him. Gifts that have reminded me, even on my darkest days of lockdown, that where there is him, there is light and where there is light, there is hope; and I would not have been able survive this struggle headstrong without him.
I look back on that uncomfortably cold night in February — how easily I could have made a run for the bus stop, turned back and pretend it had never happened; and how 2021 me, totally sold out for Jesus, is so proud of that hesitant, damp haired introvert for taking that first step and answering the door: unlocked and wide open, just as it should be for him.
Emmy became a Christian through Alpha Online, run by Oasis Church in Birmingham. This article first appeared on the church’s Medium page and is re-published with permission