For many years now, I have had questions about my faith. I come from a family that has mixed opinions on faith and while growing up I was often ridiculed by some of my siblings and even my father for my curiosity in Christianity.  This fuelled my passion to know more.

Thirteen years ago, before I met Jane, I was going through some troubling and testing times in my life. At this point I often found myself talking to God and often shouting out to him for answers; however, I was still heavily questioning my faith. Did I truly believe?

Twelve years ago, I met my wife Jane, who had also been experiencing times in her personal life that made her question faith. Meeting each other was a definite turning point in both our lives. Jane was brought up as a Christian and was baptised then confirmed at St Wilfrid’s Church; Jane’s mum Anne is a long serving member of the congregation. As time went on, my confidence grew and I started to come along to the odd service at St Wilfrid’s; then we had our three girls baptised at the church and, in the past 12 months or so, we have become regulars at the Sunday service.

Back in January I was explaining to Ian (our vicar) that I wished to get involved with the church more and I wanted to know more about God and Jesus, as I had so many questions as did Jane. He handed me a little booklet entitled “Is there more to life than this?”   I read this through twice that same day and many times in the months that followed; then I decided I wanted to come to Alpha. So, Jane and I discussed it and both decided that we would like to come along. I did my research on the Alpha course, had a good look at the website and read testimonies from people who had previously attended. However, I was still sceptical as to whether it was what I was looking for so I decided to come along with an open mind and take it from there.

Although we were both somewhat nervous about going along to Alpha for the first time and didn’t really know what to expect, I was still excited about going along. It was a great, relaxed experience at the first session we attended; everyone was so welcoming in the group and straight away we felt a sense of belonging within it. It was really nice to start off sharing a meal together while exchanging general pleasant chat before watching the Alpha video together and then having the opportunity to discuss the video after over tea and coffee. This approach for me was really good as it was so relaxed and I didn’t feel pressured in any way. As the weeks have progressed, Jane and I have come to know the other members in the group and we feel we have the start of some great friendships within it.

Both Jane and I had many questions before starting Alpha, and it would be wrong of me to say that by attending Alpha all of these questions have been answered, indeed it has most definitely raised more questions. However, some of the questions have been answered and it has been lovely to share other people’s experiences and thoughts throughout the course, with Alpha giving us the resources and guidance to go off and find answers.

I have mentioned it on a few occasions in our group discussions, with us both also mentioning it outside of the group, that since we have started letting God into our lives through Jesus and the Holy Spirit we have definitely noticed a positive change. I am now making time on a daily basis to read the Bible and take time to pray; we also share grace before our evening meals when we sit as a family and our girls are starting to ask questions about church, God and Jesus. I find this heart-warming and I also find that I am not worried or don’t feel uneasy about discussing Christianity with other people, whether at work or in general conversation.

We have just had the away day as part of the Alpha course; this is where the group meet at a place away from the church and focus on the Holy Spirit. I found the setting for this day idyllic and extremely relaxing. Again, not really knowing what to expect from the day I went with a completely open mind. There was a particular point during the afternoon when I had a truly uplifting experience where for the first time in my life I felt that God had come to me through the Holy Spirit.

We are nearing the end of the Alpha course itself now and I am actually quite sad that it will come to an end. However, I can’t wait for the experiences that the final few sessions may bring and for what the future will hold. But I know one thing for sure it will be a future filled with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit fixed firmly in our minds and in our hearts.

I would happily recommend Alpha to anyone!

My Alpha Reflection So Far…… – Mark Coates