What is Alpha?

One of the things I still do with my former team at the Chancery is produce a weekly podcast called the EquipCast. A couple of weeks ago we had a chance to interview Jodi Meyer who is a Mary our Queen parishioner and the Alpha Nebraska Network Director. She has been running Alpha for 6 and a half years and has seen countless conversions in that time. She’s also experienced a conversion of sorts herself. She said, “I loved the Lord before Alpha and I love the Lord more now because of what I’ve seen Him do through Alpha.” I asked Jodi to sum up Alpha for me, but really, I was asking for our parishes so that we would all have a better understanding of its strategic role for growth in our parishes. Here’s what she had to say.

Alpha is an IDEA – It’s this notion, as Pope Francis speaks about, that if we don’t go beyond the walls of our own church, if we just stay stuck inside, it’s not healthy for the Church. It’s not healthy for us as believers. We are called to bring our faith to others in a way that is winsome and authentic.

Alpha is a TOOL – It’s a tool in the sense that it equips the Church to be able to do that, to bring our faith to others. It’s a process and program that allows parishes to do that effectively and to reproduce that impact.

Alpha is a COURSE – To describe it in its most basic elements would be to say that it is a course that runs about 12 weeks. It involves, typically, guests and hosts who gather for a meal, a video or talk done live, and then small group discussion. There’s a retreat that involves prayer ministry.

Alpha is about CULTURE – It would sell it short to say that it’s just a course because it really is in a broader sense a tool for changing the culture within a parish for gradually, person by person, small group by small group, helping cast the vision for disciples of Christ that their role is not just something that takes place on Sunday at Mass, but that their role really is to live this out in a way that brings others to Christ.

Alpha is about RAISING LEADERS – We have about 7% that are actively engaged and doing all the stuff in the parish and we have all the rest that are maybe less engaged. When done well, one of the beautiful things about Alpha is that we may have people as guests on one course. They are then invited to come back as volunteers on the next course. They may serve as a small group host or maybe the following course they’re leading from the front as the emcee or they’re coordinating some piece of it. But the really beautiful thing that’s been the most fun is watching people discover gifts they didn’t know they had and helping them to put those into place for the service of the Church. One example is Susan. Susan thought she was going to get kicked out of Alpha because she thought she’d be a little too mouthy. She came to Mass, but never did anything else. We let her stay. We were happy to have her for all those weeks. She actually came back as a volunteer later and was a nervous, tentative sort of volunteer in the kitchen. By the third time around, she was the queen of the kitchen and leading it.

Have a blessed week – Fr. Jeff Lorig