AS A policeman in Thames Valley for more than 20 years Mike Williams saw some pretty distressing things.
However, Mike (75), who has lived in Garnsgate Road, Long Sutton, since retirement, carried one particular burden with him: the cot death of a baby whose parents were known to him.
“I have seen lots of death as a policeman, but that upset me and I wondered why it had happened,” admits Mike. “That was in about 1975 but it really haunted me and I couldn’t find the answer.”
Finally, in the past year, Mike has found the answer he was seeking, although it involved a brush with death. He had a heart attack and believed he was about to die when, he says, “the Lord came into my life”.
All he knew was he had changed – his family told Mike he was a different man – but it took a group of people and a course to help him make sense of what had happened to him.
Mike went on an Alpha course, low-pressure, fun and informative sessions for those who want to explore the meaning of life and who may be interested in the Christian faith. The course was run at Long Sutton Baptist Church by a group of people led by church deacon Andy Stockman.
Mike says: “I joined it to see if I could find an answer, and I did. They show a film and you talk about various things and one thing struck me. It isn’t God that takes life, but I hadn’t recognised that. It’s not his fault; He’s there to help us. I feel a changed man: I have a different attitude towards people and I pray, which is unheard of in my life. It broke me up when the baby died and I have looked for an answer for 35 years. It really was a burden to carry around.”
For 54-year-old Pat Reynolds, of Hannath Road, Tydd Gote, it was the loss of her husband that made her feel she had lost her way. She admits she didn’t know which way to turn but going to the Alpha course gave her the chance to ask questions and to start to make sense of her life.
“I haven’t looked back,” she said. “I have got over the grieving and I have a purpose in life and somebody to guide me.”
Andy (38), who leads the Alpha team made up of Pauline Talton, Iris Foster, Terry Beeby, Pat Reynolds and Barbara Conlay, has also experienced events that have changed the course of his life.
He lost his job as a result of ill health and, although Andy was a member of the congregation, he experienced a call to do work in the church. He was made a deacon, an unpaid post, and given the title of Outreach Co-ordinator to promote Christianity and bring people into the faith as well as the church. He started preaching at churches in the area and was asked by the Long Sutton Baptist minister, the Rev Nic Hasnip, to take over the Alpha course previously run by the minister and church secretary Iris Foster.
Andy says the work being done previously was good, but the team that now runs the Alpha course with him bring their own special skills and he says they have “really moved it on”.
He explains: “I took over the course last year and it is difficult to put a finger on it, but it just seems to have come on leaps and bounds. It has changed quite a number of people’s lives.”
Andy and the team ran two, slightly revamped, courses last year, with an average of seven or eight people on each one, and Andy says: “All of them have either renewed their commitment to the Lord or have actually been non-Christians who have come to faith through the course, so it really has done superbly well.”
The course takes place on Saturdays at Long Sutton Baptist Church starting at 9am with a full breakfast, followed by a video then tea/coffee and small group discussions. Dates for this year are: January 14, 21 and 28; February 4, 11, 18 and 25; March 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31; April 14 and 21.
People interested in joining the course can learn more at http://uk-england.alpha.org/ or contact Andy on 01406 424018.