Toria has been part of the latest Alpha course. Here is some of her story.
LIVE LIFE IN COLOUR
My faith journey began age 4, being led into Sunday school by a neighbour on a damp, misty morning. My brother, Simon, had rolled his car on the Long Mynd trapped with 3 of his friends on their way home from a party.
My Mother took action swiftly that day, deciding my story was going to be different, I attended every Sunday without fail, learning bible stories and the names of the disciples off by heart, guided by the attendants of our local Hagley Free Church.
As I grew towards my teen years, the attraction of every Sunday fell away somewhat. My walk with the Lord felt as if I had been told about him, yet a personal relationship was still some way off.
Severe illness soon followed.
A year later, I tried to reconcile a loving God with the suffering I endured . I read many books, yet still a real relationship I yearned for seemed far off. I became too ill for church attendance. As the months passed by I tried to pray, to listen for an answer to the tumult of questions I had.
I tried to leave Christianity in my past, and yet I kept meeting new friends who taught me Christ cared for me personally. They always seemed to arrive just when I felt the chapter was closing.
Over the years this pattern has emerged, as if a force held me very gently, waiting for a response so patiently. So many events far too many to mention have moved me back, as if to say,” Don’t give up, this is where you are meant to be.”
Church for me had often felt a little foreign, I am quite liberal in approach to people, accepting them as they are. I have often feared my beliefs may not always be embraced. “For it is by GRACE we have been saved through faith, not as a result of our own efforts, it is a gift from God. ” Eph 2:8
After years of being a lonely Christian not fully connected to the riches God has in store for us all, I tried our local church a few times. Rather nervous, uncertain of the response to an average everyday lady.
Alpha was on their website, offering an opportunity to freely explore the territory of what God means to you, how you see your faith, to learn without judgement or persuasion. Covid had made me consider so many aspects of my faith, once again searching for the comfort and peace of earlier church experiences in my life.
The last few years had tested my belief system to the maximum, asking yet deeper questions. Something just didn’t feel right. My connection with the Lord had taken a step back. Somehow I had come to believe I knew best, forgetting his promises, his guidance for my life. As a result the wheels were about to fall off. I had lost my smile I was well known for. I simply hadn’t realised all those years as I wondered where God was, he was quietly sitting beside me giving me strength and guidance. Life without this was grey without colour in comparison.
Colin and Marion Robbins answered my first tentative email with kindness and patience. The very first Alpha evening felt familiar, calming and compassionate. It felt as if I was being given space to consider faith surrounded by a group of encouraging people, equally searching for their story to unfold.
Each person was treated respectfully, whatever their background, level of education or previous belief system. There was a lot of laughter, empathy and compassion as everyone relaxed sharing personal stories. I learned so much from the historical evidence and the experiences of others on the course, fuelling faith and understanding God’s love and acceptance.
After the first week, I felt a new sense of peace. Encouraged, I felt so joyful at the thought of another meeting. It genuinely felt as if for the first time in my life, my hopes of finding a true relationship with my loving Father was in sight.
With Colin, Marion and Reverend Bruce guidance I gained in confidence. CHRIST cared for me personally, I am accepted, just as I am. I arrived as myself, without affectation, the peace and forgiveness was beyond words.
Jer 29 V 11 . “For I know the plans I have for you,” declared the Lord, “plans to give you hope and a future.”
I now pray to continue to walk closely with those in the St. Andrews congregation. To grow in faith and knowledge, hopefully to find God’s purpose in life. Salvation is free, yet discipleship takes dedication. With their support I hope to be drawn into His likeness, to live the life God wills for me.
There is joy in walking with Him , comfort when you are sad or troubled. There is a strength when you are weak or weighed down by life’s challenges. I can testify as a very ordinary, average lady, God is accessible to all, God loves all, whatever situation you may find yourself in. There is healing and new life.
Thank you St. Andrews and All Saints for being there when I needed you to guide me back to peace.