What do the words Alpha Course conjure up in people’s minds? What sort of course is it? How long does it run for? Who is it aimed at? And why?
Over to David Laker and Monica Laker, who attended the course that was run at St Andrews last year.
Although a Christian since my teens I have always felt there was so much more I should know. When I heard that the Church was about to run an Alpha course I must confess to being a little unsure of what to expect, but the warm welcome extended to all those present by our Vicar, Curate and Minister, ably assisted by ‘meeters and greeters’ Alan and Mary Smith, soon made everyone feel at ease.
Over a delicious meal the group got to know each other and then settled down to watch a thought-provoking 30 minute film.
The video featured Nicky Gumbel (the Anglican priest and author who founded the Alpha Course) explaining more about the Christian faith.
It was followed by a group discussion, where it was emphasised that no viewpoint or question would be considered off limits.
This pattern was followed throughout the 10 week course. We also attended a Saturday away day at Tudeley Church Hall, where we devoted the day to focusing on the Person, work and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
By the end of the course we all knew each other well and each of us felt comfortable discussing innermost thoughts and feelings with the group. The general feeling was that all those present had benefited considerably from the experience.
Myself? I gained valuable insight into something I have struggled with for years; the assurance that Jesus loves each and every one of us – yes, even me – despite our human failings, and He wants everyone to have a personal relationship with Him. All we need to do is accept His love.
The religion into which I was born and brought up gave the impression that God was some sort of autocratic police chief. Forever pounding the celestial beat, He came across as strict, serious and ready to pack one off to hell at the drop of a hat. Any wonder that blood, thunder and a bevy of devils dominated childhood dreams? With such a scary background I was hesitant about attending this course but thought I should give it a try.
In the relaxed, informal atmosphere, it proved very different from anything I had encountered before. For a start, it was not dogmatic or dictatorial in any way.
Although Anglican inspired, this particular group had a smattering of other beliefs: a woman who had grown up within the Salvation Army, a man of Jewish ancestry and myself, a lapsed Roman Catholic. All, I believe, were searching for answers to deep-rooted questions.
On the whole, I found the course enlightening, interesting and totally absorbing. The group discussions proved meaningful and stimulating.
However, for me, Alpha was part of a journey that raised more questions than answers. Indoctrination of the faith into which I was born was proving enormously difficult to shake off. Would I attend a follow-up course? That is a question still being churned over in my mind.