Saturday, 24 September 2011

Alpha

I've just discovered, through Revising Reform blog,  this rather interesting weblog detailing one man's journey through the Alpha course. I think we are going to be doing a smaller scale version of  this course in church soon, but during services rather than as a separate event. The author of the blog I've linked to certainly approached it all with an equiring mind and a fighting spirit. After reading a few of his posts I'm a bit worried that I might have to watch video clips with Nicky Gumbel in them...

11 comments:

  1. Word of advice - if you listed to recordings rather than watching the videos, you can often fall into the mistake of thinking it's Tony Blair talking. The sense of cognitive dissonance this induces can be quite exciting.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It is advisable never to listen to a grinning minister who preaches in a M&S pullover. His off-the-peg gospel will be as bland and simplistic as his fashion sense. Mr Gumboil has the knack of reducing the mystery and majesty of God to having a nice cup of tea and a salad with middle-class youth. How ghastly!

    ReplyDelete
  3. So, Archdruid, I should close my eyes and think of Tony Blair(I'm still not reassured...)

    I quite like a nice cup of tea sometimes, Fr Ivan. I'll skip the salad, and I usually take a break from middle class youth at the weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My advice would be to keep your critical thinking hat on and be prepared to debate. All the best.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I shall be maintaining a submissive silence, Freda, as I am exhorted to in scripture. [Actually, I probably will! :)]

    ReplyDelete
  7. Bland, boring and usually for those christians who are still asking and seeking. Honestly I think this course fails because it is essentially boring theology and those who lead it need to be prepared to dug and been challenged in life and theology if anyone is going to really learn anything. the Holy Spirit day at the end is an attempt to keep 'the toronto blessing' going. but shhh i did not say any of that, just between you me and the tea cup!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I should say that I think the course, which is within the service, aims to revisit the basis of the Christian faith, rather than to "debate." I wouldn't think long standing church members would be questioning or challenging basic tenets anyway - although you might expect a range of perspectives.I think it will be more interesting to listen to what other people have to share about their faith anyway. I get plenty of opportunities to air my views on this blog anyway!

    ReplyDelete
  9. let me know how it goes as it sounds an interesting and positive way of using the course.

    ReplyDelete
  10. When I was nosing around thinking about what to do for my PhD thesis, I seriously thought about researching Alpha. Its middle-class white bias, its Charismatic/Evangelical flavour and its promotion of (and appeal to) a certain culture is interesting indeed from a sociological perspective on religion. A close friend of mine, when he was a vicar, got very snotty with me when I raised concerns about Alpha... (He’s now happily left vicardom and is teaching at theological college not in Fr Oder’s diocese...) But having seen Alpha in action I can’t help but think it is more about the promotion of a certain culture rather than the Christian religion.

    Channel 4 did a really good documentary on Alpha a few years ago (see: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/revelations/video/series-1/episode-1/the-first-night-of-alpha) and what struck me the most was how it appealed to those who had lost their way... They came from white middle-class backgrounds and after a period in the wilderness were trying to find their way back to where they came from... Their journey appeared not so much one of faith, but an attempt to reconcile their past and present (but that is often the way with many ‘conversion’ experiences). The documentary’s section on the pressure to speak in tongues was very interesting and echoed some of my own experience in my research.

    One of the organisations I have been researching as part of my PhD thesis also has a kind of Alpha course – but more geared to the people who use the church’s ‘drop-in’ centre (in this case, mainly East European migrants in central London). I happened to join in one of the evening sessions on the night they were discussing ‘gifts of the Spirit’. As with the Channel 4 doc there was considerable pressure applied for the ‘gift of tongues’ to be manifested. I was at a table with one member of the church and four ‘seekers’ (if there wasn’t a free meal I wonder how many would have been there by choice?). Only myself and the church member had English as our first language, the rest of the table spoke either Rumanian, Latvian, Polish and Russian. We were shown a video which focused on the Day of Pentecost and how foreigners in Jerusalem heard the disciples speaking in their languages. Afterwards we discussed this at our table (or tried to do, given the language limitations). Meanwhile an elder kept walking around the room talking in tongues. I had to bite my lip as the desire to giggle was becoming hard to control. My amusement was cause by the irony of these men trying to get possible converts to speak in tongues when I thought if ever there would be a time for the Holy Spirit to do the ‘speaking in the languages of others’ now would be a good time, as trying to witness to a table full of people with only pidgin English was wearing the church member down. Of course he, like the other elders wandering around, was eager something should ‘happen’ – but for whose benefit though? The homeless men or the church members? I suspect the latter – and I should imagine Alpha itself is motivated by a similar self-seeking desire.

    Peter Denshaw

    ReplyDelete
  11. " White middle class background, period in the wilderness and need to reconcile past with the present" - that pretty much sounds like me:)
    (Think I could still do the tongues as well.) Tailor made then? :)

    ReplyDelete