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