Resource Review: Alpha — Bottom Line? Be Not Afraid, Give it a Try!
The Alpha course is by no means a new resource. But, it is new for many Catholic parishes and dioceses. One of the realities recognized in the New Evangelization is that there are many baptized who are not responding to the grace of baptism or have never made the first and fundamental response to Jesus Christ’s invitation to relationship. And this brings us to a challenge–how can Catholics evangelize, when there are many self-identified Catholics who have not yet themselves experienced a personal relationship with Jesus?
The Alpha course is a great way for a parish to start turning from maintenance to mission. To offer a space for personal testimony and clear initial proclamation of the Gospel kerygma. To establish a baseline “on ramp” or entry point for all on-going faith formation, to create a unifying experience that can help all ministry groups (you know…the Knights of Columbus, those ladies running the store, the young adult dinner and speaker ministry, etc.) align around a common understanding of the kerygma and conversion.
Many times, however, parish leaders, councils, and others shy away from Alpha because it is not specifically a “Catholic” program–and that’s a shame, as Alpha is a great resource.
If you’re trying to discern how to respond to the New Evangelization as a community or simply have no idea where to start, I encourage you to check out these two examples of Alpha in action in the Catholic context.
First, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth, Michigan has been using Alpha as effectively and intentionally as I’ve ever seen (or even dreamed!) in a Catholic parish setting. This page tells the story, and reveals how Alpha has spurred on-going faith formation and evangelization. And, if you’re nervous about how Alpha might be received in your parish, check out this video from OLGC that the parish staff used to meet any concerns head on.
Second, a thoughtful reflection from British priest, Fr. James Bradley on how we can understand Alpha as helping us recover gifts and adopt new methods for re-evangelization.