Since midsummer my husband and I have been looking forward to taking Alpha this fall. Alpha is an ecumenical faith formation program. This was a rare opportunity for us; an Alpha with children’s ministry, so that we didn’t have to worry about childcare for our six year old. She’s been able to spend some quality time with her favourite friends and she’s met some new kids, some younger and some older. As homeschoolers, that’s the kind of situation we prefer. Seeing her own behavior reflected back at her by younger kids, while she has the attention of older peer role models has been eye opening for her. An environment where she needs to manage the situation without running back to my arms is an excellent learning experience, too.
This weekend she is staying with Grandma and Grandpa while my husband and I go to the Alpha Weekend. We’re doing Alpha because my husband will be continuing, afterward, to do that Rite of Catholic Initiation, catching up on the sacraments and becoming Catholic. Though I was kindly invited to tag along for that as well, I won’t be able to go with him. I’ve already done my sacraments and I don’t want to hire a sitter. So, this opportunity to follow along with Bob as he makes this huge life change is precious. To be called to the church, when I was a lapsed Catholic turned Wiccan and Bob was an atheist less than a year ago, is an amazing journey.
Alpha starts off slow with two hours a week of song, prayer and lectures. The atmosphere is apologetic, for the benefit of the curious non-Christians and cultural Christians in attendance. I can tell that some care has been taken in planning the dinner seating, because everybody at our table is more or less in agreement in terms of belief and our level of understanding. Take all the faith discussion away and it’s still a fun evening for me. We don’t do babysitter’s, so having someone watch June, while my husband and I enjoy dinner that someone else cooked, in the company of other adults is a welcome break. It’s almost extravagant, week after week. I feel so pampered! Now, here we are, on the road to the weekend retreat that contains most of the content and marks the halfway point.
The buzz says that Alpha weekend is notable in that people often have their first encounter with the Holy Spirit. People from the parish who are active and involved, part of supportive groups of friends, made their connections at Alpha. I hope that we have a great time and I hope that it lives up to the hype and fulfills Bob’s expectations.
I wrote yesterday about my experience with Alpha, so far, and about my expectations for our Alpha weekend. I didn’t have a fantastic, life changing experience, but it was an emotional rollercoaster for me.
Driving to the venue was a treat for us. We got to retrace part of the route to New Brunswick where Bob and I spent some of our most memorable days in our early relationship when he was a graduate student and I was a research assistant.
That high was short lived because when we arrived at the retreat centre our room was small, cluttered and cold with a shared bathroom. We had hoped for a comfortable Saturday night to talk and rehash the day, but that wasn’t to be. The food turned out to be kind of heavy, too, nothing like the lovingly cooked and almost healthy food at the weekly Alpha nights.
Unlike the Alpha evenings, the daytime lectures seemed less heartfelt and a bit rushed. We ended up in a discussion group with strangers and the vibe of that group wasn’t as accepting as our usual group. I couldn’t get immersed and I wasn’t physically comfortable.
I spent a good part of the day in my own thoughts.
I guess that’s some pretty heavy self-examination, but to be honest, I was hoping for a more uplifting sort of gift. It was an eye opening experience, but not in the way I had hoped. This weekend Alpha felt like an argument, both inside and out, but what I need from the church at this time is love and nurturing. My husband seemed to find that connection during the opportunity for prayer ministry, but I felt kind of alone.
The friendships that I had made meant more to me than I realised. Simple familiarity brings a lot of support. After the weekend, I’ve gained a new perspective on my group, as part of the larger picture of the community.
After being away from my six year old daughter for more than a day, I came back with a new appreciation for her, too. I hope we can hold onto that.
If you’re curious about Alpha and would like to talk to an average person who did it I’d love to share my experience with you. Ask away in the comments.
I’m linking up at the Christian Bloggers Linkup. Go check out the other posts.