If you live or work in Catholic or broader Christian circles, it would be very surprising if you hadn’t heard of the Alpha program.
Many parishes and faith communities are looking at Alpha in a Catholic Context as an evangelisation tool to provide an opportunity for people to encounter Jesus at whatever stage of life and faith journey they are at. It has been successful in many communities and the eagerness to learn more about it is ever growing.
Alpha is a series of sessions looking at different questions around faith, grounded in the Good News of Jesus, all based around food, a talk and good conversation. Lorraine McCarthy, co-ordinator of Alpha in a Catholic Context, delivers training and offers support throughout Australia. Lorraine recently led an Alpha Intensive training weekend to people keen to experience Alpha in the Diocese of Parramatta.
“The Alpha Training weekend was a truly uplifting experience” said one participant. “Lorraine presented the extensive Alpha resources clearly and with passion. Her obvious belief in Alpha as an initial tool in evangelising and her heart for bringing people to Jesus, both came across strongly.”
There was a very encouraging response by the participants to the weekend. “[Alpha] was not a series of dry presentations, but a sensitive process in which we were equipped, enthused and encouraged. The enkindling of the Holy Spirit was embedded in this process, and the conversations over food and in small groups was invigorating and enjoyable. The quality of the videos was outstanding.”
Another participant shared, “there were many highlights for me and I guess overall the connection with all others – especially my own team members was especially rewarding.”
Prayer ministry is a big part of the Alpha experience, both praying for the Alpha program and the experience of prayer within the program itself. It becomes much more of a focus towards the latter half of the program and can have an incredible impact on those who experience it. “After leaving on Sunday, I felt the need to pray more and for particular people. This to me is very important so I hope it is a lasting legacy,” said a participant.
Food is an important element in any Alpha experience. Over the training weekend, parishioners of Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown and Good Shepherd Parish, Plumpton volunteered their time to prepare lunch for participants. They demonstrated what Alpha hospitality looks like, which was backed by their experience of hosting Alpha courses in their own parishes.
The demand for Alpha training has led to an additional intensive training day being offered on 9 February 2020 at the Institute for Mission. If you are unsure of whether to attend, the following challenge voiced by one participant might be for you.
Other feedback received included, “I really challenge all parishioners to receive this type of training – especially those who are not sure of how to talk about Jesus with others, those who are unsure how Alpha fits into the parish’s processes of drawing people into ever closer relationship with Jesus and his Church, and those who want their Christian lives to keep growing. This course is not only an impactful tool in the formation of others, but is a vital part of one’s own personal formation. Actively seek out how you can attend an experience of Alpha training!”
The Pastoral Planning Office are offering an Alpha Training Day on Sunday 9 February 2020 at the Institute for Mission Blacktown. If you would like to experience the Alpha Program and consider it as a tool for Evangelisation and Faith Formation within your community, then register by contacting Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02 8838 3497.
Lisa Bright is a Project Officer in the Pastoral Planning Office, Diocese of Parramatta.