Fr Allen and Gary O’Brien today attended one of the Diocesan Seminars on the Alpha Course “in a Catholic context”.
Alpha seeks to introduce the basics of the Christian faith and is described by its organisers as “an opportunity to explore the meaning of life.” In October, November and February, Catholics who are interested in running an Alpha course are being offered training in Oxford, Staffordshire and Birmingham.
Alpha was started in 1977 at Church of England parish in London. In 1990 the Reverend Nicky Gumbel took over the running of the course. Alpha grew rapidly in the UK in the 1990s, from just 4 courses in 1991 to a peak in 1998, when 10,500 courses were run. It is now on offer in around one hundred and seventy countries and over one hundred languages and millions of people have taken the course.
A previous participant in Alpha says it changed his life:
“As a cradle Catholic I drifted away from the Church but came back because I was taking my daughter to the Catholic School and felt hypocritical if I was not taking her to Mass. I was attending in body but not Spirit. Then someone asked if we wanted to learn more about our faith and I went on an Alpha course. On 26 February 1996, on the Holy Spirit weekend, God changed my life, my wife’s life and the lives of many others in the parish. This began a process whereby we ran the course 11 times in our parish, helped found Catholic Evangelisation Services and in 2007 I was Ordained as a Permanent Deacon. I am now the volunteer Treasurer for the Diocese of Birmingham, using my talents in God’s service. I fully recommend the Alpha course for anyone who wants to understand their faith more fully, appreciate the gift of the Church and come closer to the Love of the Father, the Person of Jesus Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”
The day raised lots of questions about how as a parish we might engage more and more with our vocation as Church, how we support one another in the deepening of our faith, and how we reach out to share to others the Good News of Jesus Christ.
It was an extremely well-led day, and offered a very positive and hopeful experience.
If you are interested in learning more, please speak with Gary or Fr Allen