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Anyone done the Alpha course, can you tell me a bit about it please?

(89 Posts)
zulubump Thu 26-Mar-09 21:53:38

I've never been a churchgoer and none of my family have, but I've always felt a bit of a spiritual "hole" in my life. The idea of going to church always seemed a bit scary, though. Dh's family are regular church goers but he stopped a few years ago and is not at all keen! Then I had dd who is now 18 months. I've recently started taking her to a Sunday service at a local methodist church. My reasons being that I'd like to give her a chance to see whether Christianity is right for her and also taking her along gives me an excuse to go and see whether it is right for me.

However, attending the services has thrown up all sorts of questions in my mind about Christianity. There are bits I don't understand or aren't comfortable with or even totally disagree with. When dd is older I want to be able to discuss things openly with her so I feel I should try and get some of these things straight in my head. Is the Alpha course somewhere where I could feel safe asking questions like "what's so wrong with being gay?" or "I don't think I believe in the devil" etc?

mumblecrumble Fri 27-Mar-09 06:04:33

I'd suggest that you'd feel safe but that you should be very careful that when you hear what asnswers they give you that you also think for yourself.

Go for it! You can always stop or leave if its not right.

The Alpha course [from the ones I've been on] are very scripture based. However I've seen these questons answered very differnetly depending on what church I;ve been doing it with.

have a look

scienceteacher Fri 27-Mar-09 06:20:47

Alpha is a very good course for someone who is new to the Christian faith or enquiring about it. No one can give you answers to direct questions, though. You hear what others have to say and make up your own mind.

The format is very good. It starts off with supper with the other course participants, followed by talk (either live or on tape) about the theme for the evening. Finally, there is a discussion about the talk, where you can give your point of view and ask any questions.

Alpha's logo is a big question mark - it is all about asking questions.

unclefluffy Fri 27-Mar-09 07:11:09

Alpha is an evangelical conversion course. I still remember this Guardian article about it. Would the methodist minister not be sympathetic? I think a lot would be.

GreatDadinTraining Fri 27-Mar-09 13:33:11

Not done one, but I thought the whole point was you got to ask the difficult questions!!!
I guess you could always bounce them in this forum anyway before asking at the course, and let us all get stuck in! There was an interesting discussion about "is there really a devil" in the Lent discussion here recently, never be afraid to ask....!
I'm sure the course organisers could put you in touch with some ex-participants if you wanted to know what the feel of any particular course was like

Niecie Fri 27-Mar-09 13:46:43

I have done Alpha and would agree that it is the right place to ask the sort of questions you are interested in.

However, I think how good the course is depends very much on who is giving it. Our course was not about 'signing you up' as a full fledged member of the congregation. We had atheists on the course who had questions and were still atheists when they left but just had a better idea of what they were disagreeing with. We had people sort of saw the point of a Christian faith but did't take it any further. There was no pressure. I don't think, from what I have read, that this is necessarily the case in all churchs and it may pay to hang on to a grain of scepticism!

I reckon though, for every question you get answered it will be replaced by 10 more. It really is an 'introduction' and not the whole deal.

EmmalinaC Fri 27-Mar-09 13:58:24

Zulubump I've just completed an Alpha course and I really enjoyed it.

You should be aware though that it is, as Christianity is, very self-referencing and as mumblecrumble says it is very scripture based.

So for example, 'what's wrong with being gay' would be answered with a 'well, Jesus says...' response. Actually that's a rotten example - he doesn't comment on homosexuality - but I hope you get my drift.

Generally, the evening starts with a meal (a lovely way to meet new people!), then a talk, then you split into groups of 6-8 people for further discussion of the theme. The kind of dicussion you get largely depends on the group - many people on Alpha courses are already Christian some are agnostic - if you have a good balance you get a pretty lively debate.

There's also a Holy Spirit day - which was a bit much for me. I leave you to discover that in your own time...

Overall it was a great thing to do, very thought provoking. I'm not sure it changed my beliefs but I was helpful to explore them. I didn't feel any pressure to commit one way or the other at the end and am still not sure whether baptism/confirmation are right for me but I have been happily church-going ever since.

I hope that helps!

hedgiemum Fri 27-Mar-09 14:05:43

Our local church offers Daytime Alpha which is really accessible for SAHM's as it has a well staffed creche (with loads of crb checked staff). Ring round local churches to see days/times of their courses and choose one that suits you well. Most towns have more than one at any one time, often with some shared resources. I have known CofE, Methodist, baptist, Housechurch and (occasionally) RC churches offer the Alpha course, it was written within the CofE but doesn't take a particular line on things such as baptism, which means churches from all different traditions feel comfortable with it.

ABetaDad Fri 27-Mar-09 14:16:52

zulubump - I am glad I came across this thread as I have been thnking about the Alpha course. The way it is advertised is not the way some of the posters here are describing it - so I am glad that I did not go.

I went to a Methodist school as a teenager and found it a very welcome 'low church' experience as compared to the Anglican churches I had been used to as a young child. However, I did find the lay preachers in the Methodist church to be quite pious while the actual Methodist chaplains were very compelling in the way they preached. Sadly I was made to go to church 8 times a week in my teenage years (at school term) so I just lost my faith because of that.

I posted a little while ago a thread asking about the Quaker faith and have been thinking about that as I also feel that spiritual but not necesarily religious "hole" in my life. As I understand it, the Quaker church has many aetheists in it and you do not necessarily have to have a Christian view of the world to be a Quaker.

Good luck on your search. smile

Higglepig Fri 27-Mar-09 15:15:15

Hi zulu,

Have just completed an Alpha course myself and was really surprised by how much I enjoyed it and learnt from it. I had a vaguely religious upbringing i.e. my mother was a regular church-goer but it always felt a bit superficial and I more or less ditched it in my teens. But like you I've increasingly felt that something is missing.

I'd heard about Alpha being a bit evangelical and was always really averse to going but after endless discussions with DP about baptism/upbringing of DC decided to take the plunge.

V glad I did. Felt completely comfortable asking all manner of awkward questions about everything from alcohol and drug-taking to sex and sexuality. The group was mixed in every conceivable way and we got some really good debates going (particularly on the session where we talked about whether or not the devil exists!) I'm sure it's true that the experience varies a huge amount depending on who does it but you could always give it a go and drop out if you don't feel comfortable there.

I also found the 'Holy Spirit Day' quite challenging! But, if nothing else, it's good to know where committed Christians are coming from. Also, it made me realise how wide the full spectrum of Christian beliefs is. I've still got tonnes more questions but it's been a very sound beginning.

Blimey, I've gone on for ages. Hope you find what you're looking for anyway.

zulubump Fri 27-Mar-09 20:16:05

Hi there thanks to everyone for the replies. They are really helpful. It does sound like the Alpha course could be what I need at the moment. I have a lot of questions and I think that it would really help me be somewhere I could discuss them openly with people and it sounds like Alpha is generally a safe place to raise the sort of questions I have. Just being able to be open about my doubts with other people who are interested would be great, at the moment I have no one to discuss them with!

ABetaDad, good luck to you too on your search. I went to a few Quaker meetings a few years ago. The main part of the meeting is in silence, which in some ways was nice, but it was too much silence for me in the end. As I understand it Quaker faith is very open indeed. Everyone I met there was very friendly and open to discussion.

I shall probably be signing up for an Alpha course some time soon then!

amber32002 Sat 28-Mar-09 07:10:17

I'd say go to a couple of different churches that offer it and talk to the people who are running it. See if you think they're people you want to hear some wisdom from. Some courses are run really well, others run in a very "er, not sure, umm, anyone?" sort of way or "It's like this and if you don't believe in it it's hellfire and damnation for you, you sinner!" kind of way. shock

Most are fine.

Well worth exploring, though there are alternatives.

As for what Christianity means, well, you could discuss that for 2000 years. And we have, too grin

A thought for you - why not try to find a spiritual director? They are there to help guide you along the path that's right for you, whether that is Christianity or not. Sort of counsellors/guides/wise friends. Might be worth looking around and asking a few of them to see if there's one that could work with you for a bit?

sgrant Fri 10-Apr-09 16:34:17

As a Christian I'm not a fan of Alpha. I'd recommend Christianity Explored before it. Neither course is a 'conversion' course. Both are chances to look at Christian faith - Alpha places too much emphasis on things like Holy Spirit weekend and not enough on the severity of sin. Also its endorsing of Catholicism which is another gospel.

In either case it will depend on how the course is structured - I feel the meal is too staged rather than informal environment.

scienceteacher Fri 10-Apr-09 16:36:27

<<<Also its endorsing of Catholicism which is another gospel.>>>

What do you mean by this?

Higglepig Sat 11-Apr-09 14:24:05

Yes, that one baffled me too scienceteacher hmm

sgrant Sat 11-Apr-09 22:01:25

Faith through works, selling forgiveness for money, exaltation of Mary above Christ, confession of sin to a man as an intermediary, repeat sacrificing of Christ in the mass, praying for the dead, forbidding marriage for priests = another gospel.

scienceteacher Sat 11-Apr-09 22:02:14

That is not part of Alpha!

sgrant Sat 11-Apr-09 22:17:15

I should clarify that I'm not Catholic bashing - I have a heart for people in this system - my own family included.

Many Catholics don't actually know what their church teach or what they actually take part in.

The short of it is that I want to see people saved, safe in the knowledge they'll enter Gods kingdom when the Lord returns.

People need to know the salvation is free and that their salvation is secure with all sin covered by the lords sacrifice.

sgrant Sat 11-Apr-09 22:21:26

No it's not part of alpha but the fact they have a catholic alpha is enough to raise alarm bells.

That along with a worrying emphasis of tongues as a gift (called gifts for a reason).

There's more if you'd like.

scienceteacher Sat 11-Apr-09 22:22:24

You can sleep easy then in the knowledge that specific Catholic teaching is not part of Alpha.

Alpha is a pre-catechetical course. If denominations are including their own teachings as part of Alpha, or under the Alpha name, they are breaking their contract with Alpha International.

sgrant Sat 11-Apr-09 22:29:04

Look at the Catholic version that Alpha put their name to as well as Nicky Gumbel describing meeting the pope.

scienceteacher Sun 12-Apr-09 07:30:55

"Catholic Alpha" is the training course specifially for RC churches who were sceptical about Alpha...

What is wrong with Nicky Gumbel meeting the Pope? Lots of non-Catholic leaders have met Popes. The Pope is not the anti-Christ.

You are a bit too anti-Catholic for my taste, sgrant. I am rather appalled that you attempt to speak in the name of Christ.

If someone finds faith and has their life transformed withing the Catholic Church that is something to celebrate, surely?

sgrant Sun 12-Apr-09 15:13:21

In other words - it has written its course to be acceptable for the Catholic church.

Anti Catholic? I sure am, just like I'm anti Muslim, anti Mormon, anti Jehovahs witness and anything else you'd care to add to the list. I'm perhaps more concerned about Catholics because so many consider it to be just another denomination of Christianity. See my previous posts as to why that's not the case.

If someone finds faith with the Catholic church is it something to celebrate? That depends on what that faith is based on. As said before - you can never know you're saved and salvation is secure within the Catholic church.

justaboutback Sun 12-Apr-09 15:20:09

Message withdrawn

scienceteacher Sun 12-Apr-09 15:25:22

Catholic Alpha does not change the message of Alpha. It is there to reassure Catholic leaders that Alpha is a safe and orthodox, given that they are at the opposite extreme of churchmanship from evangelicalism.

Alpha teaches/discusses the faith of the original and undivided church. It's as orthodox as you can get. Even the mighty RCC can't change its message.

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