This month we caught up with Steve Arnold, who was invited to Alpha by his work colleague and became a Christian at the end of last year. He told us his story of how he got on at Alpha.
Q: Before Alpha did you have any kind of Christian background?
SA: When I was a kid my parents used to send us to Sunday school, but they weren’t really religious. It was the done thing in the ’50s. I used to enjoy it — I even went to see Billy Graham at Wembley. But I never had a religious moment. In the end my dad gave me the option of joining a Sunday football team or going to church. So football got in the way and when I was 17 I joined the Army.
Q: How long were you in the Army?
SA: Sixteen and a half years. I always felt something was missing, but more so when I came out of the Army. You have such a bond when you’re in there. A lose term thrown around is ‘band of brothers’, and you really are.
Q: So how did you end up on Alpha?
SA: I got invited to Kings for Easter Sunday last year by Bernadette Gaffney who I worked with. She said that they were having some baptisms and would I like to come? I just said “yeah okay”. I knew so little about Kings that I turned up in a three piece suit!
After the Baptisms we went into the visitors cafe and there was a leaflet for Alpha. And I said “what’s all this about then?”. Bernadette said “well go on one and find out”. A few months later, when I got back from a holiday in August, Bernadette said “what do you do on a Thursday night?”. “Well nothing particularly”. She said “well you will be from next week. Your Alpha Course starts”. I couldn’t remember what it was. But she said “right, we’re going!”
So I went. I like to think I went with an open-minded attitude, but as I said to Paul and Chris on that first night, when they asked what I thought of Christianity I said “to be honest I’ve seem some horrible things done in the name of religion — because I used to be in the Army”.
I started the Alpha Course and just took to it like a duck to water. Nothing was too much trouble to any of the Christians. No subject was off-limits. You could ask anything and they would answer as truthfully as they could. They said they didn’t know all the answers themselves, but nobody does, which was refreshing!
Q: Were you searching for God before you came to Kings?
SA: Not searching, more drifting. But when Bernadette invited me to Kings I thought ‘why not’. I used to enjoy it as a kid and it would be rude to say no. So I came along and just felt good the whole time.
The thing I loved about Kings was that there wasn’t a ‘preachy preach’ — all rules and regulations. It was a different approach and maybe that’s what I needed.
I’ve always been baffled by the Bible. But then I found out there were easier versions of it [than the old King James Version]. That finally hit home when Andrew Wilson did the talk on the Bible on Alpha. The way he described the Bible — I thought ‘why didn’t anybody ever come out with that sensible approach before’ — and that really got me thinking. And then every week I couldn’t wait for Thursday’s to come.
Q: So what kept you coming back each week?
SA: The people. I really got the feeling that I belonged but not knowing why. But the more I kept coming back the more I realised why I belonged. The more everything started to make sense and the more I wanted to be there.
Now I’ve got it bad — I really start buzzing when it comes to Sunday. The night I became a Christian I stayed up all night. I didn’t want to do anything, not even sleep, and I felt such a wonderful feeling of peace. Serenity is probably the word that comes closest to how I felt.
Q: Would you recommend the course to others?
SA: Yeah — I’d even recommend Christians to go on it because it’s so helpful and you’d learn from it (but not from Martin’s jokes, they were terrible!). It opened my eyes. I’d thoroughly recommend it to everybody.
Q: What is it about Alpha that makes it good for non-Christians, like you were?
SA: I would say that even though it’s done at a pace to get through, it makes you feel like it’s been done at your pace. So you can take it all in without being crammed with facts and figures. I never felt like I was under any pressure what so ever. I just loved the whole feel of it.
To find out more about the Alpha Course and sign-up go to www.kings.church/alpha