The Alpha course
The Alpha Course was developed by an Anglican church, Holy Trinity, Brompton, in London. It has been widely used around the world in almost every denomination as an introduction to the Christian faith.
- Who is it aimed at?
The course is for those who want to investigate Christianity, are new to a church or those who want to brush up on their basic Christian knowledge.
- What form does it take?
The Alpha course consists of a series of talks looking at topics such as "Who is Jesus?" and "Why and how do I pray?". There is a meal together at the beginning of each session which gives an opportunity to get to know each other. After each talk those taking part divide into small groups for a time of discussion. The organisers say: "Listen, learn, discuss and discover. And ask anything. Alpha is a place where no question is too simple or too hostile."
- Can it be adapted for Methodist churches?
There are no specific Methodist guidelines for doing Alpha since any contentious points are more to do with differing styles of churchmanship than with different denominational loyalties.
The main areas where organisers of a local course tend to consider doing things differently are:
- The meal - it really does help to relax people in an informal setting - be very disciplined on time!
- The talks - video or DIY - both work - it really is a matter of personal preference. If you go the DIY route, try to be faithful to the content even though illustrations may change. If you give attendees the Alpha handbook, they should be able to follow the main headings easily.
- The teaching on the Holy Spirit - Alpha is very much a 'Charismatic' course. Its content is not at odds with Methodist doctrinal emphases, but its experiential approach may create difficulties if it is at odds with the rest of your church's worship practice.
- The weekend away - many churches opt for an awayday rather than a weekend - this can be made to work, but it is more pressured than a weekend.
- What about follow-up?
It helps to plan a house-group to take forward the work of the Alpha course once it is over. The Alpha organisation strongly recommend that organisers attend an Alpha Conference before leading a course. They are a tremendous help.