The Carlington Summit
by David Darwin.

The Alpha Course sponsored by St. Elizabeth Parish has been an unqualified success. So much so it will be offered again later this month.

The first course, which began in late September, attracted a regular attendance of over forty individuals. The high response rate and enthusiastic evaluation of the course as it wrapped up in December convinced the organizers that another session was warranted.

Pastor Fr. Dan Dubroy spoke often in his homilies of the wonderful discussions which took place each evening. He was impressed by the candid questions and remarks, and the positive effect the course had on those involved. He is hopeful many others who could not attend the first course, or were unsure or too ill at ease, will come to this one. A special invitation is being sent to neighbouring parishes and faith communities.

The Alpha Course is aimed at those wanting to investigate Christianity, new Christians, those who feel that they have never really got going as a Christian, newcomers to the church and those who want to brush-up on the basics.

Over a span of ten weeks, participants listen to a talk each evening on a particular theme and then divide into smaller groups to discuss any questions raised from the talk. Participants are encouraged to ask anything. It's a place where no question is regarded as too simple or too hostile.

Feedback encouraging

There can be no better testimonial than the words of the people who completed the St. Elizabeth version of the course. When asked how they would describe themselves in terms of the Christian faith, one said, “Better. Bigger. Fuller. More spirit-filled. And I have lots of new (Christian) friends.”

Another person wrote, “I have a picture of a very kind and loving God and I feel close to Him. Before the Alpha course I had a picture of God as a very stern God and I feared Him.”

Many others indicated their faith was much stronger, or growing stronger every day. When asked how they benefited from the course, the responses were emphatic. “It was like finding family - so wonderful,” wrote one. “I feel I know Christ better than I ever did,” penned another. Others said, “Helped with tolerance for other's beliefs and values,” and “Learned more about the different aspects of my religion.”

The feedback showed the course was also enjoyable while building faith and community. One participant summed up their experience by saying, “To feel and see and experience genuine sharing, giving, loving, and caring.” Others noted the group discussions were a highlight, either because of the content of the dialogue or just simply because they were a chance to “communicate in a friendly gathering.”

One person reported, with evident enthusiasm, that they enjoyed everything about the course, “the talks, the Scripture references, the discussions, the people (friends) and definitely the praying at the end of the Spirit weekend.”

Reserve your place

If you are interested in registering for the course starting January 18, please contact the St. Elizabeth parish office weekday mornings at 725-2242. There is no cost for the course and you are under no obligation to continue if you do not feel the course is of value to you. The course consists of ten week nights and a weekend retreat. Each evening there is a social period, a videotaped talk and a discussion on the topic in a small group setting. The talks address such questions as ‘Who is Jesus?', ‘How and why do I pray?' and ‘How does God guide us?'

“It's friends bringing friends” says the Internet home page of the Alpha Course in the United Kingdom (http://www.alpha.org.uk). “It's all friendship-based.”

The Alpha course has been running for 20 years. Often the course participants consist of a large number of non-churchgoers. They may be asking themselves many questions, such as: ‘What about other religions?'; ‘What about suffering?', and so on. The Alpha small group leaders are instructed that no question should be treated as too trivial, threatening or illogical. Every question is addressed courteously and thoughtfully - and none would ever be ‘pestered' if they chose not to continue with the course.

More information on the Alpha Course experience may be obtained by visiting the official Canada web page at http://www.alphacanada.org.