Bow, East London
All Hallow’s Bow is a church in East London that seeks to love some of the most deprived people in society. Their aim is to be an explosion of joy by making Jesus known in their local community. Cris Rogers, the pastor, talks about how Alpha is slowly transforming lives.
Right from day one this congregation has been here to tell people about Jesus. We’re not here to go to church and we’re not interested in religion. We want to do something different so that people get to know Jesus.
We’re part of a really deprived community so we want to make sure that we are growing an East End church that is reaching those in poverty. For us, it’s all about placing ourselves locally. We run a community centre that’s only purpose is to eradicate poverty and to educate people.
But it’s also about the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit transforms lives. We want to see the Holy Spirit not as something that you just encounter in church, but as someone you can meet anywhere. I think Christians are really good at putting God in a box. But the Holy Spirit is for Monday-Saturday, as well as Sunday. How do we invite the Holy Spirit into every possible alleyway, conversation and shop?
So for me, Alpha is a no brainer. It’s a tool that allows people to know who Jesus is. The good thing about Alpha is that it’s not just an evangelistic gospel message; it’s an evangelistic culture. You eat, you build friendships and you create community. We are told that the Kingdom of God is like a banquet that everyone is invited to. I think the fact that Alpha starts with an invitation to a meal is an echo of the Kingdom of God. People come in and sit around the table. The thing about tables is that it doesn’t matter if you’re a banker, a prostitute, a Nasa Scientist, a single mum or a drug-dealer. When you sit at a dinner table, you don’t have one chair that is taller than another chair: everybody is equal, everybody is a human being.
It’s about living locally and being known as people who love their local community. We’ve been getting to know a bunch of Muslim guys who use our church kitchen to cook curries because their wives won’t let them cook at home. It’s definitely not a prayer group, just a bunch of men who like cooking! I had a call one day saying, “I’ve heard that you do Alpha. My friend who runs the curry thing at church says I need to come and hear you talk about Jesus.” He’d been thinking about committing suicide, but someone told him, “Don’t do that, go and hear the vicar talk about Jesus.” That same person also told another guy with severe depression to come on Alpha. So they both came and talked to me. They didn’t become Christians, but they did hear me talk about Jesus in a way that didn’t threaten them and made them feel loved.
Every time we run an event we prayer walk the entire area. We put fliers through every door and, as we do so, we put our hands on the door and pray God’s blessing on the house. We literally prayer walk every street, every tower block, every flat. One Sunday after we’d just prayer walked the entire community, a Muslim lady walked into our church and said, “Jesus came to me in a dream and told me to come to this church. I want you to tell me about Jesus.”
She joined Alpha, she joined our small group, and now she’s a member of the church. For the first four or five months, she was reading the Quran in the morning and the Bible in the evening, praying to Allah in the morning and Jesus in the evening. She asked us, “Why is it that when I pray to Jesus in the evening my prayers get answered, but when I pray to Allah in the morning they don’t?” So I said to her, “If you were doing a science experiment, and one way produced good results and another way produced bad results, you would conclude to go the way of the good results. If you’re praying to Jesus and he’s answering your prayers, he is the way to go.” Over a number of months she tried doing this. Then, about nine months ago, I heard her for the first time describe herself not as a Muslim, but as a Christian.
Praying and building real relationships are absolutely key to Alpha. It’s when we create community and pray about these friendships that we see people being drawn to Jesus. Alpha’s not the saviour, Alpha’s the tool which we use. We want to live in such a beautiful way that it captivates people’s imaginations.