We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Sunday, January 16. 2011
The Alpha course was developed in response to people who wanted to have the opportunity to investigate the claims of the Christian faith. Over ten weekly sessions, including a day or weekend away, guests hear the claims of the Christian faith. After the presentation, course attendees have a chance to question what they heard and discuss the validity of the claims. The support of all the major Christian denominations has enabled the Alpha course to spread rapidly around the world. Today, Alpha is run in over 160 countries and has been translated into more than 100 languages. Courses can also be found in many contexts including churches, homes, workplaces, military bases, colleges, schools, and prisons. There are many reasons why people enjoy attending the Alpha course. For some it’s the no pressure, non-judgmental atmosphere, others enjoy building relationships with new friends, while others appreciate the chance to discuss deep questions of life that they don’t otherwise get the chance to ask.
WHAT HAPPENS AT ALPHA?
Alpha courses run in a wide variety of locations and at different times of the day. Courses vary in size, from one small group meeting in a home, to hundreds of people in a larger venue. Some courses are held over morning coffee or during a lunch hour, though most are evening courses, typically lasting 2 hours. Whatever the course size, people tend to remain in the same small groups for the duration of the course so they can get to know each other, continue discussions and deepen friendships.
The whole course usually lasts for 10 weeks, with a day or weekend away about half way through. The emphasis is upon exploration and discovery in a relaxed and informal environment.
The Alpha course consists of a series of talks addressing key issues related to the Christian faith.
The course curriculum is the book Questions of Life by Nicky Gumbel. Each talk reflects one of the chapters from this book. Please note: There is no obligation to attend all ten sessions.
WHAT THE PRESS SAYS
The New York Times "A novel approach to Christian education that has been catching on nationwide."
Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian "What Alpha offers, and what is attracting thousands of people, is permission, rare in secular culture, to discuss the big questions - life and death and their meaning.“
The Express London
WHAT PAST GUESTS SAY
Anthony: "I didn’t expect the warm welcome I received, the interesting discussions or the lack of pressure to speak in the small groups that followed. I found that I could express any doubts about Christianity, and that my opinions would be respected. If I had an issue with something, I had a forum to voice it with no need to apologize."
Rebecca: “Our church was offering this course and my husband and I thought it would be a great opportunity for us to share in this spiritual journey. We go to church with our two kids, say our prayers, etc. but something was missing. We wanted to find out what was missing.”
Cynthia: I decided to take the Alpha course because I was unsure what it was I believed. I needed something to fill the empty place in my life. I started attending Alpha to seek answers to those basic questions about my faith and who God was.”
Heather: “I was the typical 20 something who had attended church as a child, but once I became an adult I stopped going. When I returned to church I felt like something was missing in my life. The Alpha course helped me understand more about God.
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On which day are baptismal regeneration, the priesthood, the holy sacrifice, and the Eucharist and the other sacraments discussed?
(Most Christians for 2,000 years have believed in all of those things as belonging to the faith handed on from the Apostles.)
A little bit Catholic-centric, ELC, don't you think? Stick to the Bible. There is no "baptismal regeneration." We are all "priests." The "Eucharist," as preached by Catholics, is not scriptural either. "Most" Christians, contrary to what you choose to believe, do not see things your way.
Alpha, rather, is Protestant-centric. I do stick to the Bible: that's why I'm no longer a Protestant but a Catholic. :)
I'll say it again, because it is an indisputable fact: for 2,000 years, most Christians have believed in all of what I mentioned -- including all the Christians who lived before the sixteenth century -- and it never occurred to anybody until the sixteenth century that they were mistaken. Of the approximately 2.2 billion Christians now, at least 1.4 billions are either Catholic or Orthodox.
I get tired of seeing nondescript nondenominational Protestantism presented as if it were normative Christianity, rather than the historically young and demographically small aberration it is.
Excuse me for being so blunt.
I like blunt, ELC, and I won't further argue with you beyond this.
Everything I know about the ceremony of baptism, I learned from Monty Python:
Arthur: I am your king!
Woman: Well I didn't vote for you!
Arthur: You don't vote for kings.
Woman: Well how'd you become king then?
[Angelic music plays...]
Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why I am your king!
Dennis: (interrupting) Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power derives from a
mandate from the masses, not from some farcicial aquatic ceremony!
Arthur: Be quiet!
Dennis: Oh but you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you!
Arthur: SHUT UP!
Dennis: Oh but if I went 'round sayin' I was Emperor, just because some moistened bink lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!
Arthur: SHUT UP! WILL YOU SHUT UP!
After writing "Stick to the Bible" you do tend to lose credibility when you write that all you know about baptism comes from a scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail that isn't even about baptism. If I recall, the Bible does actually have this fellow called "John the Baptist" who actually "baptized" this other fellow called "Jesus" who seemed to think the rite worthwhile.
I thought a man of your caliber would be able to read between the lines and get my meaning, Steve. Incidentally, did baptism save Jesus?
Believe me, no reading between the lines is necessary. You made an assertion that is obviously untrue as a matter of fact. You or I might disagree with any particular denomination's interpretation of the meaning of baptism, but the idea that the rite itself has no basis in scripture is absolutely without merit.
Of course baptism has a basis in scripture; I don't quite see how you read in my comments that I believe anything other than that. My point was, there is no baptismal regeneration siupported by the Bible. It is plainly a ceremony, an outward sign of what, hopefully, is an inward spiritual regeneration. Getting splashed on your head doesn't do that.
Big i am sorry, but i use to think yall were a believer.
Well, yall still have opportunity to repent and be baptized.
Our church is working hard at getting Alpha re-started in our community. (We had a two-day Alpha conference for churches interested in Alpha a couple of months ago.)
By the way, ELC, there also is a Catholic version of Alpha which was developed with the input of the Catholic Church and is endorsed by the Church. I think there is a part of the Alpha site that talks about that (search "Catholic" on the Alpha site).
Alpha is intended to be an introduction to get people thinking about Jesus and to explore the faith. It is not intended to be a full education or catechisis. Once you can get folks interested enough to come back to church, this education obviously should follow, and in fact the big challenge for us is how to we properly follow up with the people who respond to Alpha.
That's right, Jim. It's just the basics - and thus perfect for anybody and everybody.
I don't mean to be a thorn in anybody's side, but baptismal regeneration, a sacrificing priesthood with a hierarchy of bishops established by the Apostles, and grace-giving sacraments are among the basics. :) And nobody disputed that they were... until the sixteenth century.
There is no question that the Alpha course is elementary and incomplete from a Catholic perspective. It was initialy reviewed and revised by the Catholic archdiocese in London so that what it did say was in accordance with Catholic doctrine, and then in Catholic parishes the course in continued with teachings on the vitally important things that ELC lists -- and more (see the list at the end of this lengthy Comment).
Check out paras. 3 & 4 in this long quote from Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM, Cap, Preacher to the Papal Household in a speech speech given in London, UK, June 27, 2005. He said,
“Churches with a strong dogmatic and theological tradition (as the traditional Churches and especially the Catholic Church are) sometimes find themselves at a disadvantage, owing to their very wealth and complexity of doctrine and institutions, when dealing with a society that has in large degree lost its Christian faith and that consequently needs to start again at the beginning, that is to say, by rediscovering Jesus Christ.
“It seems we are still lacking a suitable instrument for coping with this new situation. Owing to our past, we are better prepared to be `shepherds' than `fishers' of men; that is to say, better prepared to feed the people who have stayed faithful to the Church than to bring new people in or to `fish back' those who have wandered away. This shows how urgently we need a new evangelization which, while being open to all the fullness of the truth and the Christian life, will yet be simple and basic.
“This is the reason why I look with interest and appreciation to the Alpha Course. It seems to me that it answers precisely to this need of ours. The very name shows this. It is not called "Alpha and Omega course” (as Revelation 1, 8 might have suggested) but simply "Alpha Course”, because it doesn’t claim to lead people from beginning to end in faith; only to help them get acquainted with it, to foster a personal encounter with Jesus, leaving it to other Church departments to develop the newly rekindled faith. See http://www.christlife.org/sharefaith/articles/CantalamessaFaith.html
“But for Catholics, far more teaching is required as a follow-up to the Alpha course.
Together with Catholic Evangelisation Services in the UK, ChristLife has developed several supplemental Catholic resources that parishes can use as next-steps in the evangelization process. These resources provide clear Catholic messages that can help lead others into RCIA and give them a hunger for life in the Catholic Church.
The following resources are now available from the ChristLife Bookstore:
"Touching Jesus Through the Church", presented by Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Assistant Professor of Theology at the University of Dallas, is recommended as the initial Catholic follow-up to the Alpha course. The series includes eight talks on the following topics:
• Who Needs the Catholic Church?
• Baptism - Gateway to Life
• Confirmation - Empowered to Serve
• Personal Prayer - Pathway to Joy
• What is the Mass?
• Getting More Out of Mass
• Keeping a Pure Heart
• Mary and the Saints
I have considerable sympathy with RC theology, as you know, ELC - far more than most Protestants. But your framing is not the description of the faith that the Orthodox church(es) would choose. Not that they would disagree entirely, but that they would reorder what you call the central doctrines. And the Copts, Armenians, and Ethiopians would object more strongly still.
Also, despite considerable doctrinal continuity, Most Christians in the centuries before Luther, and even more before the Great Schism, would lay greater stress on some things you have left out, such as the church visible or spiritual exercise. Just because something primary now traces all the way back does not mean it was always primary.
Then too, most believers and even much of the clergy were non-theological by current standards. What "the Church believed" seems much clearer when viewed in retrospect than it did while time was passing.
That said, I agree that what is Western European normative, and especially North American normative - what people here think of as the default position of the Christian faith - includes much that is fairly uncommon, and mostly recent, in Church history, to the exclusion of much that had been agreed upon before.
If i want a drink i go liquor store.
If i want a meal I go to grocery store.
If i want counsel form The Blessed Trinity i go to Mass.
These so called nondenominationalists pretend church with a pretend Jesus.
Walked with the upstarts for years before Mary could break through to present the real Jesus.
Bargain basement "Christianity(s)" knows not heaven but make pretense.
So Mr. Nick wants to teach yall yankees how to speak in tongues.
The boy sounds like a Wierwillite.
When praying for people to receive the gift of tongues, I have found the greatest barrier is a psychological one ”making the first sound…. In order to help people to get over this barrier, I explain this difficulty and suggest that they start by copying what I or one of the other prayers is saying. Then I start to speak in tongues slowly so that they can follow.” Nicky Gumbel
Enchanting enchantment there.