The Altar Call

It was the year 2000.  I really did not expect anything significant to happen as I attended an Alpha Workshop.  Four people from our Adult Education Team decided to explore the Alpha program.  It was a new approach that was meant to invite unchurched persons in the community to attend church.  It had its foundation in England and had recently arrived in the United States.  Having attended church workshops in the past, I was expecting a medium size church where we might possibly meet in the basement.  We all were amazed as we drove up to a very large church.  Men in the parking lot directed us to a place to park.

 As we entered the building, something felt different.  I can’t describe it, but there was a feeling of sanctity upon going through the doors.  Inside, we found 400 – 500 people and a large sanctuary where the program had already begun.  There were speakers explaining the program, singing, and something that I had never experienced before – an altar call.  This call was given between the sections of the workshop.  Participants were invited to come to the altar rail and offer prayer for any concerns that they might have.

I resisted for the first calls, but by the fourth call, I moved forward.  I don’t know what drew me to this experience except that I had struggled with something for a long time, and I decided to pray about it.  It seemed the thing to do at the time.  There were people at the altar rail who would pray with you if you asked.  I don’t know how long I was there praying alone and also having someone pray with me.  As I think back now, I do remember that I was shaking as I prayed.  It really didn’t seem like anything had happened.  I was disappointed.  Why hadn’t God answered my prayer?

That night in the room I shared with a young minister who was one of the four, I told him about the experience and how unhappy I was that nothing seemed to happen.  I really don’t know what I was expecting, but God was not there, or so I thought.

We finished the workshop the next day and headed back to church.  We discussed the Alpha Program, and all were enthused about it.  We decided that we would offer it as soon as possible.  Upon arriving back at the church, I knocked on the door of a meeting room where Elaine, my wife, was attending a meeting to tell her that I would wait for her in the sanctuary.   She answered the door and her first words were, “What happened to you?”  I didn’t understand what she meant but she continued with, “You have changed.”  It still didn’t sink in. 

The sanctuary was dark as I entered.  It seemed like a Holy place.  Something was happening.  As I sat there, in the darkness, God came into my life in a way that astounded me.  I prayed; I silently sang songs that seemed to come out of this place.  Tears came as I began to see the significance of what was happening. 

I had changed and others noticed it also.  There was a different feeling inside of me; it was a life changing experience.  A new focus was now a part of my life.  I threw myself into this new life with such vigor that I almost felt that I was on fire.  Writing poetry, something I had never done before, began to happen.  I started writing a monthly column on spirituality in our church newsletter.  There were so many changes that I can’t begin to write about all of them.  All through this “new life”, I felt the hand of God leading me.  I can remember feeling this as a child at times.  God spoke to me, not in words, but in ways that I understood.  At one point, in prayer, God told me I would do things and go places that I had never imagined.  It’s all true; that has happened. 

The journey continues.  There have been many plateaus, some valleys and also some mountain tops.  I have learned on the way and new things have become known as I continue.  I have become a Spiritual Director, journeying with others as they seek to find their way.  I am a Lay Speaker, who has filled the pulpit several times.

 Recently I have “heard” the words, “Make Room.”  Again, I am not certain what they mean, but I know that God has something for me to do.  A recent entry in my journal seems to give some insight.

 “I am so comfortable in this new place.  I feel so close to God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  It seems to be the place I am called to, a place to “Make Room”.  There seems to be a new found strength in this place that I didn’t have before.  It feels as though Jesus is a part of me.  So God, on I go, not certain of my destiny, but knowing that I am in your hands, and that Jesus fills me with his strength, and that the Holy Spirit holds my hand leading me ever onward into the place I do not know now, but which will be revealed to me on the journey.”

Ken Bauman

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