What is the Alpha course? July 2021

Did you see the signs for the Alpha course? What is it? Who is it for?

Joyce asked me if I’d like to put a few words together on my thoughts about the Alpha course so far. Anyone who knows me will tell you that ‘few words’ are impossible for me! Now I do have two other collaborators, Elizabeth and Emma, so I may get away with more words?

The questions in the title were going around in my head, so out of curiosity I asked Alastair if he would add my name to his list to join the Alpha course. The first session was on Wednesday 28th April, so we’re about half way through the course. There was also a session on Saturday morning 12th June, for two and a half hours. The subject, The Holy Spirit, would usually be discussed over a weekend. So it had been greatly condensed.

So, what is the Alpha course?

From the Alpha.com website,

‘Alpha is a series of interactive sessions that freely explore the basis of the Christian faith. No pressure. No follow up. No charge.’

Who is it for? It is for anyone and everyone, whether you believe in God,
Jesus, the Holy Spirit or not.

We meet over Zoom and the sessions last for approximately an hour and twenty minutes. The structure is small groups for discussion centred round a video. Each group has a facilitator and each has the same questions, based on the topic of the week, to ask to their respective groups. Elizabeth, Emma and I are in different groups and we’re all very impressed with the sensitivity and skill of our respective facilitators. We enjoy meeting with our respective group and respect the opinions of others in our groups. I feel very ‘safe’ in my group in that I can ask any question or respond to one of the facilitator’s questions, without feeling uncomfortable, ignorant or stupid.

The videos are interesting. Some of the subject areas covered to date include ‘Who is Jesus?’, ‘Why did Jesus die?’ ‘Why and how do I pray?’ ‘How does God guide us?’.

Alpha is the brain child of Nicky Gumbel who was brought up in the Jewish faith and is now a zealous convert to Christianity. In the videos, there is an attractive young couple who travel the world and approach the public with fundamental questions, which the public often laughs off or reply to in one sentence. Some of the videos include testimonies from people who have experienced terrible events in their life. One person had never been loved from being a child, another abused their body. There was a murderer and an addict. Someone cared enough to introduce them to the Alpha course and it has totally transformed their life for the better, as they were introduced to Jesus.

Our views on the course so far:-
Elizabeth – ‘ The positive side is, it is certainly thought provoking and affirming. The negative side for me is I find Nicky excessively confident and pleased with life, but he is an actor and he has used his life (and his family ) to spread Christianity. ( I find The Peace difficult in church so you will understand I am not an extrovert). Alpha cannot provide definitive answers but that is the nature of Faith.

It won’t be a Damascene conversion for me, but it has given me food for thought and I will read the Bible. Alpha is about one being offered hope and strength in return for personal effort, a good deal definitely.’

Emma – ‘In 2002, I was travelling and working in Australia, and I happened to do an Alpha course in Sydney. It was thought provoking and I met a great bunch of people.

The course has been challenging and we have had some lively discussions, with tricky topics. There are familiar and new people in our group. Nicky Gumble gives you course material, and then space to think and relate topics to your own life. My spiritual journey has progressed but continues. Kindness and humility for me are key qualities to hold in your heart, and trying to keep God at the centre of our daily lives. Through these challenging times, it is reassuring to remember we never walk alone, and the power of prayer is restorative.’

Val – Although of pension age, I still consider myself a ‘beginner’ with regard to my knowledge of the Christian faith and that of the Holy Trinity. Always willing to learn, I joined the Alpha course. Having gone to church off and on throughout my life, pray to God and end my prayers ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord’, I was never very sure about the Holy Spirit. The Alpha course has explained everything. Saturday’s session on the Holy Spirit was such a moving experience for me. I feel at peace, more confident to talk about Jesus in a sensitive, persuasive way being guided by the Holy Spirit.

So far, for me, the Alpha course has been enlightening, challenging and inspiring. I could continue but I’m hoping that this article has whetted your appetite to learn more for yourself, about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and that it will inspire you to join any future Alpha course. (I have just learned from Alastair that he is planning another Alpha course in the near future).

God bless you all in Jesus name

Val, Elizabeth & Emma

Western Nepal Disability Trust – Lent 2021

Despite the challenges of the last year, we have some encouragements to be able to share with you. Firstly thank you to our supporters, many of you from within the community of Burley, for your contributions in a variety of ways – praying, volunteering, financial donations, and moral support and interest.

Last year we made a donation to a small organisation called Light of Pokhara, which is run by friends and former colleagues. This was to fund a vocational training in sewing/tailoring for disabled people and/or their carers. Due to covid, this was delayed, but has been able to start in February 2021. There was a ‘typical Nepali opening ceremony’ with a banner (which includes the WNDT logo on it!), a local government person making a speech, people on the committee listening (having been welcomed to the event and given special scarves as a sign of respect), some lovely flowers on a table, and a sewing machine to indicate what it is really about…… we look forward to hearing how it is progressing…..

In contrast to the newer project above, we have continued our longer term support of the palliative care project, which is moving to an exciting new phase.

There is a neww Palliative Care centre, and we are committed to give
funding towards the running and staffing of the centre now and in the future. It is really special to see this building operational as we had seen the plans on paper when we visited Nepal in summer 2019.

In relative terms, Nepal has experienced covid with about 3000 deaths and 274,000 cases. This is likely to be under reported – but even so is remarkably low given the underlying poor health and economic status of many of the population. The pandemic has meant there is a growing need for treatment of long covid, and services based in the new centre will provide care for people with long term heath conditions, as well as the palliative care.

Due the pandemic restrictions continuing for some time, our usual WNDT fundraising events are ‘on hold’ – so another sponsored event is being planned. This will involve the WNDT Chair taking part in a ‘virtual challenge’ which is the equivalent of walking to Everest Base Camp and then to the top, a distance of 64km(40 miles). This is likely to start in May, and details of how to sponsor / be involved will be shared nearer the time, including how you can join in on a ‘trekking walk’ if you would like to do so. Despite the challenges, we can be really encouraged by the sewing training taking place now, and the developments of the palliative care service.

Thank you to our supporters for making this happen.

Jane Schofield Gurung, for WNDT Trustees

St Mary’s News – Lent 2021

From the Registers

We gave thanks for God’s gift of life at the Funerals of:
George Newby
Norma Appleton
Ted Clough
Marjorie Naylor
David Chary
Doreen Paginton
Nellie Thornton

We celebrated the Marriage of Emily Whelan and Tim Barker

Sad News: It is with great sadness that we note the death of retired Priest Malcolm Emmel. Malcolm who lived in Burley with his wife Pat, died on the 3rd of February. Our prayers are with Pat and their family at this sad time. A Zoom funeral will take place on February 25th.


St Mary’s Lent course – everybody welcome
Given that we cannot get together at the moment, I would love to invite you to our Lent Course which this year is going to follow Pete Greig’s prayer course. Every Wednesday, starting on the 24th February, I invite you to join me on zoom – detail below. We will have an opportunity to chat and then we will watch a 20-minute video and then break out into smaller groups for a conversation about what you have watched with a facilitator and some questions to guide you. Prayer is a wonderful thing to focus on during Lent and Pete Greig helps us to delve deeper into prayer. Come along and enjoy some connection as well as some spiritual encouragement!

Join the Lent Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 844 1302 6827
Passcode: 251830


Job Vacancy

St Mary’s Church, Burley in Wharfedale, are seeking someone to work 24 hrs/week to initiate projects that will draw families into the church community, develop children’s spirituality through different expressions of Sunday School and help build commitment and discipleship amongst the families already engaged in Church.
We are looking for a person with a strong Christian commitment and a desire to care for families and see them flourish. The proposed salary is £16,224 p.a.
For more information, please contact Becky Berry at parish.admin@stmaryspc.co.uk
Closing date for applications 26/02/21


Electoral Roll: Before the A.P.C.M. on the 25th April, we need to update our Electoral Roll. If you have been attending St. Mary’s for more than six months you can join it. It is not a complete revision this year. If you are already listed on the Roll, no action is needed, unless you have changed your address. If you would like to be included, please pick up an application form from the Church porch (after the 12th March) and return it to the Parish Office before the 28th March. You must be on the Roll to vote at the A.P.C.M. or to stand for election onto the P.C.C. A copy of the revised Roll will be displayed in the Church porch from the 11th April. If you have any queries, please contact me via the Parish Office: 01943 864405.
Merel Wood (Electoral Roll Officer)


A Message From The Magazine Team: The Prish Magazine team hope to produce the next magazine in time for Easter. If you would like to contribute to this magazine, then please could you send it to parishmag@stmaryspc.co.uk by Monday March 15th. It would be really lovely to hear about what you have been up to during the lockdowns, your thoughts on the future and what has got you through this unprecedented year so far. So please put “pen to paper”, we very much look forward to hearing from you.
Many thanks
The Parish Mag Team

MAF – Aviation as Gift: Stuart King and his Legacy

2020 was significant for all who were able to recollect personal service in the Armed Forces, or indeed citizenship during those war years, fearful for so many, including some who read this. Stuart King, at 98, concluded his life amidst those celebrations.

Stuart had joined up in 1941, longing to be a pilot, having belonged to the University Air Squadron at Cambridge while doing a degree in Engineering. But the RAF wanted most of all his engineering experience and skills. The first part of his really interesting book “Hope has Wings” tells in detail some of his wartime story, not least his involvement in the repair work needed on damaged aircraft in makeshift facilities put together in northern France and Holland after the D-Day landings. (Amidst the mayhem, aircraft were landed on heavy wire matting landing strips, and attended to there and then! In the book there’s a vivid account of Stuart’s first months after he and his unit were landed onto France’s war-torn shores. I can lend you it!).

So what followed for Stuart? Well, soon after the war, he fulfilled his desire to learn to fly, gaining his pilot’s licence. His Christian commitment led him to be in conversation with Mildmay, a medical missionary venture active in Africa. Mildmay had begun to visualise how small planes could be invaluable in transporting people and supplies to remote places in many African countries. Out of that vision, a separate group was born, the embryonic Missionary Aviation Fellowship. Today MAF (now Mission Aviation Fellowship) is an extensive agency, of which more later.

Stuart King’s name became synonymous with MAF. Along with a small group of other wartime RAF trained fellow Christians, their focus became Africa. They envisaged a ten month air and ground survey of many countries. This would, they believed, lead to the fulfilment of their vision to develop a service of value to missions and other agencies by responding to the needs of people in remote places. In 1947, the three intrepid ‘visionaries’ took off in a heavily-laden Miles Gemini (cruising speed 120 mph) for the 4,000 mile flight. The flight was not without some more than ‘tricky’ moments!).

Fast forward to contemporary times. In 2019, Stuart King received that year’s Award of Honour from the Honourable Company of Air Pilots for ‘his outstanding contribution to aviation’. Other illustrious men and women who have received recognition with that same award include Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, Jim Lovell, Apollo 13 Commander and the Red Arrows!

The Clerk of the Honourable Company commended Stuart as ‘an extraordinary and visionary man, who has done so much to enable aviation to bring relief to so many of the world’s most disadvantaged people’. Receiving the award, Stuart honoured the source of all that he had been gifted to do in his life : ‘It is always humbling when we are acknowledged for our God-given abilities’.

MAF today.

Today MAF is very much an international agency. HQ offices not only in the UK, but in Australia, Canada and the USA, South Africa and elsewhere. In addition, there is an administrative set-up looking after ‘local’ operations in every country where MAF is flying its planes today, altogether 26 countries, 19 in Africa, 7 in Asia/Pacific and 6 in the Central and South America. At the present count, 137 small planes are being maintained in airworthy condition, ready to be flown wherever, enabling the work of countless Christian missions and humanitarian agencies.

If statistics are your thing, in 2019 more than 28,000 flights were flown, flying time something over 19,000 hours. Not only pilots but a host of ground staff are required to keep the planes safely and ‘usefully’ in the air. While most pilots are expatriate, ground staff are a mix of expatriate and local. Where possible, citizens of the country where the planes are being flown are recruited and trained. The further statistic which gives a measure of the extent of MAF’s enabling of other organisations, whether dedicated to explicitly Christian mission or responding to varieties of needs of under- resourced peoples, is that such agencies number more than 20,000. The flights transport people and goods, facilitating routine needs or responding to emergencies and crises eg: resourcing Churches, clearing landmines, conveying educational materials, building and medical supplies, every plane involved often also carrying someone in need of critical medical attention as facilities in so many places are simply unavailable within easy reach. A recent story from Madagascar told of an hour long flight carrying a badly injured lady replacing the alternative ….. 15 hours over disastrous roads!

So who finances all this? Aid agencies and sometimes a local government, by enlisting the services of MAF planes, play their part, paying in full or part cost of flights. Then, the purchase of aircraft and maintaining them to a high standard requires a lot of financial resource. MAF UK, plays its part too. In 2019 it raised over £11 million! 50% came from the personal giving of Christians from a variety of the UK’s Churches. This is the sum of individual gifts and does not include donations from Churches that corporately decide to make a donation from the combined giving of their members. Just 7% came to MAF via that route. But thank God for all that those aircraft, their pilots and the extensive ‘ground staff’ are doing to enable all manner of mission and humanitarian work to continue in places of great need and slender resources. For many, the sound of an approaching aircraft, and its landing on the local makeshift but safe landing strip nearby excites and brings great joy.

MAF publish a well-produced, informative magazine three times annually (lots of pictures so very ‘accessible!). If you wanted to see one, I can provide. If you felt you would like to be supportive of MAF’s work through a donation, or to find out more via the internet, just go to their website www.maf-uk.org

I add below our new phone number as a means of Covid-secure communication (enquiries are absolutely without obligation and there will be no follow-up unless requested !!)

Chris Hayward (01943 818679)