Finding faith through Alpha Online
With online searches about God and prayer soaring during the pandemic, popular Alpha Online course has taken off in the Diocese, with positive feedback from those attending.
The Revd James Griffiths, Vicar of St Denys Church Lisvane, has been trialling Alpha Online and reporting encouraging results. When the pandemic forced church buildings to close, St Denys were among the first churches in the Diocese to offer online services.
St Denys runs three Sunday services – two in a traditional format and one that Revd James describes as contemporary and evangelical. It was a natural progression to then offer Alpha as an online course.
Alpha has been in this church’s DNA for many years.
What is Alpha
Is there more to life than this? Why did Jesus die? How does God guide us? These are questions of faith explored in the Alpha course, created by the Holy Trinity Brompton Church (HTB) in 1977 – now running in over 169 countries worldwide. As the global pandemic forced lockdown across the world, Alpha has been quick to adapt to the pandemic and has shifted its course online using Zoom. In the UK alone, over 1500 Alpha courses are now running online.
Alpha Online at St Denys
When asked about the move to an online course, Revd James described an opportunity to reach people with questions about faith, “If you look at Google searches, lots of people are searching about prayer and God. They are asking deep questions about life. It seems an ideal opportunity to reach out to people and give them the chance to ask about these things.”
Alpha International (the company producing the course materials) makes it easy to run the course online, with eye-catching videos (many filmed in global locations), training materials, and graphics for promoting the course. They designed the course to last 11 weeks, but St Denys will run it for six weeks, before asking attendees if they want to continue.
So far, the response has been encouraging. Four attendees have signed up. Three are joining from outside the Diocese of Llandaff, including two sisters based in Northern Ireland.
Why join online?
When asked about the appeal of Alpha courses online, Revd James highlighted the ease of joining from your living room or kitchen. Before the lockdown, not everyone had the time to attend the course at church each week. It seemed too big a commitment for some. An attendee named Anne said, “I have known about Alpha for a long time as I have been a fairly regular churchgoer. I’ve been reluctant to join a group ...a Zoom group seemed more my cup of tea.”
Alpha on Zoom also allows people to ask questions in an environment outside their church, says Anna,
My sister suggested Alpha. I am a Christian but I have so many unanswered questions.
St Denys’s online Alpha course lasts for one hour, including a short welcome, viewing that week’s video, and a group discussion lasting around 30 minutes. Juliette highlighted the convenience of the meeting format, “I’ve been meaning to do the course myself, but not got around to it. I’m interested in finding out more about Christianity and the Bible, so it’s ideal for me. I especially love that it’s only an hour each week online, so it doesn’t take up the whole evening.”
When asked about the goals for the online Alpha Course, Revd James said,
We want people to know there is a God and he has revealed himself to them through Jesus.
He adds, "It would be ideal to see people come through to faith, but even if they don’t, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been worthwhile… it may be one stepping stone on their journey to faith."
He was keen to stress that the course helped to clarify issues of faith, provided a safe forum for questions, and allowed people to grapple with issues they wanted to explore.
“To work well, any course requires an atmosphere of trust that grows as relationships grow. This process takes longer online than it would face-to-face. This is largely because there is no opportunity to get to know people over a meal before each sessions starts. The process is slower, but relationships grow and the trust that is essential to honest conversation does come. For us, I think it was at the fourth week that people felt more confident sharing more personal reflections.”
Alpha Online @ Abercynon
Alpha Online is also being offered by Abercynon Church and will be led by recently ordained Revd Martine Lewis.
"During Covid people have been turning to prayer more and asking the big questions about life, faith and God." says Revd Martine. "Alpha Online provides a safe place to ask those questions."
Watch this video where Revd Martine explains why you should try Alpha Online.