About fifteen years ago, I became aware of the Alpha Course. My friend and business partner in Chicago had served on the Alpha International Board with Nicky Gumbel, the Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London and the global leader of Alpha. When Gumbel was interviewed as part of our NCS Five at Five series this past spring, I was happy to learn that the Alpha Course would be offered online for the first time, due to COVID-19.
So what is Alpha – and why did this online course offering excite me so much?
Alpha introduces non-believers, seekers, new believers and mature Christians to the important questions of life from a Christian perspective. It emphasizes hospitality and sensitivity to attract many who would not consider going to a church and encourages all participants to explore the big questions of life and faith. The course facilitates discussion among group members through high quality videos and engaging content, teeing up key questions such as: Is there more to life than this?; Who is Jesus?; Why did Jesus die?
By inviting participants to accept Jesus into their lives and inspiring all to be more active in their faith, the course has been extremely successful.
The slow-down that many of us have experienced due to COVID-19 restrictions gave my wife Jane and me the time to sign up for an Alpha online course. We signed up for an Alpha online course through Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), the global steward of Alpha. Since we had visited HTB a couple of times over the years while in London, we saw this as an opportunity to encourage seekers and connect with other Christians from Europe and were interested in pursuing it as a couple.
We were assigned to the 88th Alpha class, which launched this past spring. Our Alpha group consisted of our two London-based hosts (Joanna and Carolyn), two people from England (Robert and Sally), three from Southwestern France near the town of Poe (Bernice, Liz, and Debbie), a lady from Martha’s Vineyard (Janet) and a pastor and his wife from Corona, CA (David and Belinda).
Each Tuesday at 2:30 pm, we got online and met with the folks in our class. Our group discussed many life questions, explored Biblical answers to those questions and encouraged one another to grow deeper in a personal relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Jane and I enjoyed our experience as Alpha participants so much that we volunteered to host our own Alpha Group this past September (the 34th group to launch in the fall). Once again, our September group had an international flavor consisting of a couple from New Zealand, three people from London, one person from Sommerset, England, a couple from the west coast of Scotland and a gentleman from Johnstown, PA.
Jane and I can’t say enough about the relational connections we’ve formed! Being a part of Alpha has provided a wonderful opportunity to practice online hospitality while connecting with and encouraging people from around the globe who are each at different points in their faith journey. Together, we have been able to share the good news of Jesus with some who do not yet know Him in a personal way, but also explore the deeper questions of life with a diverse group. We plan to volunteer as hosts for another HTB Alpha online course this January. Make the investment of time in yourself by joining an Alpha group - to explore the big questions of life and faith with others around the world and also potentially position yourself as a future Alpha host in your neighborhood, local church or through Alpha USA. I’m confident you will enjoy the experience – and likely want to host, as we did!
I’ll share one more quick highlight regarding Alpha. My Alpha experience inspired me to partner with AJ Britton, our Winston-Salem Fellow and NCS intern, to host an Alpha group locally online with those connected with NCS Winston Salem. The group that came together found such encouragement and hope during this period of COVID restrictions.
So if you are looking for connections, purpose and greater understanding about Jesus’ plan in your life – give yourself the gift of Alpha this holiday season!
Merry Christmas to all, and I hope to see you virtually and in person at our NCS gatherings.