Anne Douglas is Ministries Co-ordinator and Alpha Administrator, Kortright Presbyterian Church, Guelph, Ontario.
God is changing lives at Kortright Presbyterian Church… and he's using the Alpha course to do it. Kortright is running Alpha for the fourth time and it's been a smash hit. So far about 60 people have taken the course. Some took it to brush up on the basics of their faith and others to investigate Christianity for the first time. Some participants have been longtime church members — for others, Alpha is their only link to God.
Although the guest list has been mixed, the reviews haven't been. People are raving about Alpha. Whether participants of the course have made first-time commitments to Christ or drawn much closer to God, Alpha's presentation of Christianity is making a profound impact on peoples' lives.
"I had never read the Bible before and I'm really enjoying it. Alpha has inspired me to want to read it," says Rosemary Gallop, an Alpha participant. "We can ask anything at Alpha with no fear of being judged… it's helping establish my belief in Christ."
Alpha came to Kortright as an answer to prayer. For several years, Kortright's elders knew there was a need for an evangelistic Bible study. They were looking for a program in which inquirers or new Christians could wrestle with the questions of Christianity.
Then a pamphlet for an Alpha conference came in the mail. In July 1996, four Kortright leaders attended the conference. They were struck by the stories of people who had little or no church background seeking and finding Christ through the Alpha course. They also appreciated the appeal to both intellect and experience in the Alpha teaching material. The other benefits they saw to Alpha were the user-friendly resources and the ready-made structure of the course.
After making sure that the teaching in the Alpha material was theologically sound, a leadership team formed and first Alpha began the following January. The team decided to have lay people present the talks instead of using videotapes, so participants could see Christ at work in the lives of real people, instead of on television.
Alpha leaders have developed their gifts in the areas of service, public speaking and leading a discussion. They've also experienced the joy of participating with God in changing lives.
"It's been awesome to see people coming to Christ all around me in Alpha," says Andrew Douglas, Alpha discussion group leader. "This ministry is the most vibrant and effective ministry to non-Christians in our whole church."
Alpha hasn't just had an impact on participants and leaders — it's affecting the congregation as a whole. It has encouraged faith-sharing in church members by giving them a welcoming and Christ-centred program to which they can invite their non-Christian friends. Alpha has brought dynamic new Christians into the congregation. Many of these Alpha graduates are eager to be involved in serving and learning. In fact, the biggest challenge has been to feed these hungry new Christians in small group Bible studies and discipleship opportunities.
"Alpha's brought a renewed excitement for evangelism to the congregation," says the Rev. Don McCallum, Kortright's senior minister. "And it's compelled many of us to re-think the way we understand our faith outside the stained glass barrier.