Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 22, 2005
Alpha course unites
Evangelization movement included RC's
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
The Alpha course on the essential teachings of Christianity is growing in favour among Catholics as bishops and priests see its potential for evangelization.
Likewise, leaders of the Alpha movement see the Catholic Church as an essential partner in its mission to re-evangelize Canada.
The creator and presenter of Alpha's video series, Nicky Gumbel, is urging churches of all denominations to work together, saying that the disunity among Christians is a big barrier to reaching the unchurched.
Gumbel made a point of visiting both Cardinal Marc Ouellet in Quebec City and Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic in Toronto while visiting Canada.
When in Quebec City Aug. 1, Gumbel, in addition to meeting with Ouellet, spoke to a predominately Catholic group of about 250 priests and lay people hosted by Auxiliary Bishop Gilles Lemay, who had run an Alpha course in his previous parish.
Gumbel told CCN he found Ouellet, who is primate of the Catholic Church in Canada, impressive.
"His love for Christ came through," Gumbel said. "His passion for evangelization, for unity, for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit are all so obvious in his life and his ministry. I felt so refreshed being with him."
Gumbel met Pope John Paul II in 2004, and met with Pope Benedict XVI when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. He says the present pope already knew about Alpha because he had previously breakfasted with Alpha leaders from Germany.
"He was also very gracious and very encouraging for us. He was particularly encouraging about the young people. Again, his love for Jesus came across," Gumbel said.
In Ottawa Aug. 2, Gumbel told an ecumenical gathering of more than 600 Alpha leaders that the passage in Luke 5 where Jesus tells Peter he will make him a fisher of men and women, not only shows that evangelization is the work of the Church, but also how it is done.
Just as Peter had to call out to neighbouring boats for help, churches will have to rely on each other to bring about the re-evangelization of the nation.
"What unites us is infinitely greater than what divides us," he said. "The Holy Spirit is lowering the denominational barriers."
The Alpha course originated in the 1970s as a teaching tool at Holy Trinity Brompton, an Anglican Church in London, England.
In the early 1990s, Gumbel, a former barrister who had become an Anglican priest, changed the course to appeal to non-churchgoers and made videotapes of the 15 lectures.
Each Alpha session starts with fellowship around a meal, then one of Gumbel's entertaining and engaging lectures on subjects such as Who is Jesus? Does God Heal Today? followed by a free-ranging discussion where questions and disagreements are welcomed.
Alpha is offered over 10 weeks, with a retreat day or weekend in the middle.
In Canada, more than 650,000 people have taken Alpha, and many of them have found faith in Jesus Christ as a result. Alpha courses now run in 144 countries in 50 languages.