Some time has elapsed since my last post. It is time to post once again. Helen and I have helped to facilitate an ALPHA course that commenced on the 19th of September 2018 and concludes this coming Wednesday night, the 28th of November. As many of you will recall from my earlier posts, our parish community of St Joseph’s has been involved in a transition of sorts having resolved at this time last year to make the move from a “maintenance” oriented community to one oriented to “mission”. Over the months following last November’s resolution, our community has had the opportunity to begin to experience the “cultural” impetus that will help to make this move permanent.
Until a parish community dives into an outreach program it may not fully understand the cultural forces that are necessarily at play to grease the wheels of the outreach endeavor. Helen and I had been advised of this during the Devine Renovation Conference that we attended in Halifax in June of this year but, as is often the case, advice and experience portray reality at much different levels. We had facilitated Alpha courses before and were aware of the potency of the course as a tool for evangelization, but we had not worked in the past with as committed a group of missionary disciples whose hearts were so motivated by their involvement as to want to make a real difference in the lives of others. ALPHA, if it is done correctly, breeds in the ALPHA team a culture of invitation, hospitality, engagement, prayer and prayer ministry, music and outreach all borne out of a commitment to love cradled first in the encounter of the disciple with Jesus.
Our parish, as has our Diocese, elected to make the ALPHA PROGRAM the primary tool of our evangelization outreach to seekers who have yet to encounter Jesus. We also encourage members of our community and inactive Catholics to experience ALPHA because of its ability to evangelize at the heart level. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his Encyclical “GOD IS LOVE” commented that “Christianity is not a lofty idea or a moral system but an “ENCOUNTER”. It is the encounter with Jesus that ALPHA so well facilitates, and the culture that ALPHA breeds helps develop missionary disciples steeped in this culture whose influence on the wider community cannot be underestimated.
As our current course comes to its conclusion on Wednesday evening of this coming week, our Evangelization Team is hard at work preparing for two new Alpha courses [an Adult Film Series Course and a Youth Alpha Course] that will begin on Sunday January 13th, 2019 at 1:00 pm. Many of the guests on our current course will be engaged as Helpers and Hosts on the new courses and some will engage in a support capacity. All of them will continue to be exposed to the culture that we see as critical to our move to mission. It is our hope and our prayer that this culture will penetrate our parish community.