After many delays and ground stoppages, I finally arrived home a little before midnight last night from a trip to Chicago. David and I were there to attend the Alpha Americas Conference held in Naperville, in preparation for kicking off our first Alpha course at St. Peter's, McKinney in September.
Alpha - a course to bring people to faith, started in London at Holy Trinity Brompton. The keynote and recurring speaker was Nicky Gumbel, pastor at HTB and current leader of Alpha International. What an amazing and engaging man! I learned a few things...let's think about these:
1. How many churches are there in McKinney? Texas? The United States? The World? That's right - just one church. Oh, there are many different denominations (packaging if you will), but all with the same head of the church. I saw it with my own eyes. We were sitting behind a church group from Wisconsin who are part of the Pentacostal movement, as they listened to an Anglican priest from stuffy old England talk about how to successfully share the Alpha course. That is just one church in the flesh!
2. I love liturgy and traditional hymns. Apparently, I am also internally moved by ANY praise and worship music where a group of people sing, even if it is in the more hip and modern vein. Uncontrollable tears throughout all the songs...for no apparent reason. Inexplicable really, yet I experience this time and again in a variety of settings. Music sings from and to my soul I guess, which is kind of weird considering my favorite radio station is Public Radio.
3. There was a part of the first day where, quite unexpectedly, an announcement for prayer was made. Nicky Gumbel was speaking about Alpha and the weekend away one minute, then with little transition provided, called anyone interested in receiving prayer to come forward. We were all talking about the Holy Spirit coming into our lives and I know that was happening in that room. Those aformentioned tears were flowing like mad....don't even know why since the songs weren't even playing! I was really filled with anxiety as a lady pretty far away from us in the auditorium began speaking loudly in tongues. I heard this for the first time on Tuesday, but the anxiety gradually ebbed as I just stood there and took it all in. I was rooted and time passed without my understanding. My mind went to a vision of myself in a new way. I am not ready to talk about that vision yet...but hope to keep getting a clearer understanding as time and experiences come.
I know that in my job at school, I am charged to lead a group of teachers to help students become equipped for new challenges and a promising future. I think the same charge exists in my call to lead Alpha. Our church will grow new leaders, create new followers of Christ and see ourselves as the church itself. It is time to really get to the business of Kingdom Work.