Start at the Very Beginning…

A few weeks ago, Henry asked me about the Alpha course: For reasons which may or may not become apparent, today seemed like a good day to blog about it…

The Alpha course is run by many churches as a way of answering questions about Christianity: It’s intended for absolutely anyone, but by default it tends to attract primarily new Christians, or people who are on the edge of becoming Christian and want to know what they’re getting into.

In its original form, the course runs over one evening each week over six weeks, plus a weekend away, although many courses tailor the course to their own needs: The groups who run Alpha in prisons don’t do the weekend away very often, for example. Each evening usually starts with a meal together, followed by a talk about the evening’s subject. Then everyone splits up into small discussion groups when the talk is discussed and any questions can be asked. The talk is normally given by one of the leadership team (either clergy or a lay reader) of the church hosting the course: Group discussions are led by ordinary members of the church – I’ve done that myself.

Needless to say, anyone who comes to week one and decides the course isn’t for them won’t be hassled – although if you just don’t come, without telling anyone you’re not going to come again, someone will probably phone to make sure you’re OK and haven’t fallen down a big hole or something.

The last time I was involved in an Alpha course was seven years ago, when with my friend Lisa I co-led one of the discussion groups. At the end of our course our vicar asked Lisa and I if we’d lead a small “after-Alpha??? group, a fortnightly meeting open to anyone who’d ever attended Alpha. The group was only to meet for a couple of months, while a new structure of small groups was set up in our church – people would then feed out to whichever of the new groups suited them.

That group met for the last time last night. In a way it was sad to see it finish, but the members – many of whom had been with us from the beginning – all said some nice things about how the group had helped them, and we really felt that the group had done what it was set up for, and it was time to move on.

Hence why I decided to blog about Alpha today.

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