I’ve recently completed running two Alpha courses via Zoom. The Alpha course has had a tremendous impact on our people and our parish, and has established itself as the initiating foundation for our faith formation both now and moving forward in our Mission Action Plan. In the fall of 2021, I hosted an online Alpha at Holy Trinity Chippawa with ten participants; in the winter of 2022, another online Alpha with fourteen participants. While Alpha is designed for those who don’t identify as Christian, everyone in our two groups was a long-time member of the church.
I have experience with Alpha from previous parishes, but this was my first with a new video series. The eleven video presentations run between 20 and 25 minutes and from every standpoint they are engaging and excellently produced. It should be noted that the real dynamic of Alpha is not the teaching or information that’s—it’s the conversation between participants that follows. The purpose of Alpha is not to indoctrinate people, but rather to provide a welcoming and safe way for them to share their own thoughts, responses, and stories. Alpha is really about hospitality—welcoming people into a place where they’re free and affirmed to speak their mind—and heart!—about their encounters with God.
In the feedback from these two courses, people were enthusiastically appreciative! When asked the ways in which they benefitted, everyone indicated “strengthened in my faith.” A majority also noted: “feel more at peace,” “made new friends,” “feel more loved,” and “discovered a relationship with God through Jesus.” In their individual comments, people wrote: “I now describe myself as a renewed Christian,” “I feel more connected to God and want now to experience more of God in my life,” “The videos were alive and interesting, presenting people from different backgrounds. The discussion was relaxed and non-judgmental, accepting of our questions and different points of view,” and “I found out that I am not the only person going through trials in this life.”
The online training provided by Alpha Canada was also very good. They were instructive in practical ways and stimulated good discussion and prayer. One of the lines in the training underscores what the course is all about: “Alpha is designed to fail… unless God shows up.” This underscored the importance for us to pray, to trust and, yes also, to wait for God in each and every session.
As the specific course was drawing to a close, I would remind folks of the date of the last session. Each time, this drew audible groans of disappointment—people wanted more! They wanted more especially of the company and discussion with each other. It underscores that Alpha is not also omega; it’s not even beta or gamma. Alpha is a beginning. Alpha starts something in people that needs to be followed up and built upon. Thankfully, I had learned this years ago, so I was ready this time with further opportunities for people to grow deeper in their encounter with God and in journeying together with others.