Sent: Monday, August 26, 2013 6:10 PM Subject: RE: Alpha curse – 2
It took me long to get the translation ready, because I first wanted to read your 164 pages report! Which I did (I think I actually read in detail about 80% of the whole report). As always, your work is extremely useful and interesting, and it has allowed me to have a very good idea of all the issues involving Alpha from many points of view and from the main sources. Excellent work! I agree with all the assessments against the use of Alpha in a Catholic setting.
…………….The advice given to those who want to run the Alpha Course in a parish where the priest opposes it, is to run it anyway “underground” — and pray for it to be accepted. What bad advice, and endorsed by a priest! Maria Laura
The insertion of the ALPHA Course in a pastoral context
There are several elements which contribute to the success of an evangelization action. The essential element – as Nicky Gumbel points out in his book ‘Telling Others’, a fundamental book for understanding Alpha – is the insertion of the Alpha Course in the local community.
Let us stress that we are talking about insertion and not a mere presence in the community. Alpha has been developed to enjoy the advantages of the local community and also for the local community’s life to be nourished by evangelization. A Christian is not only someone who has heard the Good News, has been baptized and has opened the doors of his life to Jesus. A Christian is someone who lives with Christ. And he does not live alone with his Lord, but together with his brothers.
The Alpha methodology – the insertion of the first announcement in the local community – describes several moments which can be summarized as “before Alpha”, “after Alpha” and “during Alpha”.
1) First of all, while preparing the launch: Alpha is not a list of simple instructions to follow for it to work (even though the Alpha instruments are very pragmatic): in order to launch the Course, it is necessary to make the local community aware of the importance of evangelization, not only on an occasional basis, but as an enduring and systematic activity.
Those who evangelize need also to have an important life of prayer. There is no evangelization without the Holy Spirit, no Pentecost without expectation
and prayer. Imagine if, at the beginning of Christianity, there hadn’t been a Saint Paul and other similar missionaries, if there hadn’t been a community who wanted to continue Jesus’ mission in spite of the obstacles. The (re-) creation of a “narthex” (a meeting place for catechumens) in our churches and communities is not an option for Christians – as Marc de Leyritz of Alpha France often repeats – if we want to re-evangelize Europe.
2) After Alpha, there necessarily needs to be a beta, gamma and so on. There is no shortcut between Alpha and omega. The Parish who organizes an Alpha Course has to plan the follow-up to help those who are starting again, as well as the newly baptized, to find a place in the community of believers (the narthex or the Alpha Course cannot take up the entire place).
3) The entire community is called to become aware of this aspect of the Church, which is the proclamation of the Good News, even though some people are more involved in it than others.
It is of course impossible to organize the Alpha journey without convincing the pastor/priest and the pastoral commission of the project’s usefulness. Otherwise our Course’s participants might be poorly welcomed in the community, or the Course might cause a dangerous division in the community.
Needless to say, the introduction of important changes always calls for some type of rebirth crisis. If the Alpha journey succeeds in finding its right place in the community, without being just another activity in the midst of many more, nor becoming an activity that excludes all the others, Alpha certainly can from that moment on enrich all of the Parish’s other activities, helping them become better places for the Proclamation.
Let’s not forget that this method was created in an Anglican parish which was almost dead. The successive pastors’ efforts to evangelize restored that community and later created an environment for the former Course participants to grow.
So as to help you reflect on the practical insertion of Alpha in our communities, I propose Alpha USA Kim Swithinbank’s schema (Alpha News Winter 2006). He proposes to distinguish between 5 Alpha insertion levels:
Alpha – an underground movement (the pastor says no, but the team starts the Course anyway).
Alpha is tolerated but not accepted (the pastor says OK, but isn’t expecting much out of it).
Alpha is just another program among others (the pastor says “I’m interested”, but he doesn’t see the potential that this instrument has of renewing his community).
Alpha is fully integrated into the parish (the pastor sees the strategic potential that Alpha has to infuse his community with the Gospel DNA; he becomes an Alpha leader and promoter).
Alpha is a blessing for the community to the point that it is shared with other communities (the whole community notices Alpha’s good fruits and shares them with others).
N.B. The pastor can be replaced by the pastoral commission or the Parish. In order to go from one level to the next, it is necessary to pray, pray and pray more… get training, encourage others to get training and share your experience.
Sent: Thursday, September 05, 2013 3:36 PM Subject: Alpha course translation
Very dear Michael,
I read the whole French document titled “Le cours Alpha, faits et réflexion sur ses racines”. It is written by an independent group of Adventists who are concerned by the use of the Alpha Course in their communities. The points they make are the same as those made by other Protestant communities that you have already included in your report on the Alpha Course, with a big stress being put on the questionable origins of the Toronto Blessing and its link to Alpha. So nothing new and therefore I really considered it unnecessary to translate the whole document.
What I did translate, is one of the attachments at the end of the document, which contained new elements in regard to the Toronto Blessing (new at least to me) and its similarities with Kundalini Yoga. The attachment is the testimony of a former adept of Kundalini Yoga who later re-converted to Christianity and participated in Charismatic meetings of the Renewal (Protestant). He was stunned to find identical practices to what he had seen and experienced as a Kundalini Yoga student.
If you search on Google “kundalini yoga Toronto blessing”, you’ll see many other similar testimonies and articles, mainly from Protestant sources.
As always, the translated text would benefit from some polishing. If any part of it is unclear, please let me know.
Regarding criticism of the Alpha Course from a Catholic perspective, the latest encyclical Lumen Fidei stresses the importance of the Church and correct doctrine for evangelization:
“for the Magisterium ensures our contact with the primordial source and thus provides the certainty of attaining to the word of Christ in all its integrity.”
All of chapter 3 of Lumen Fidei is about the Church’s role in safeguarding and transmitting the Faith, in particular #48:
Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity. Precisely because all the articles of faith are interconnected, to deny one of them, even of those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole. Each period of history can find this or that point of faith easier or harder to accept: hence the need for vigilance in ensuring that the deposit of faith is passed on in its entirety (cf. 1 Tim 6:20) and that all aspects of the profession of faith are duly emphasized. Indeed, inasmuch as the unity of faith is the unity of the Church, to subtract something from the faith is to subtract something from the veracity of communion. The Fathers described faith as a body, the body of truth composed of various members, by analogy with the body of Christ and its prolongation in the Church.
I consider the above quotes as good arguments against the use of Alpha Course in Catholic settings.
I’ll be away next week, and probably unable to see my mails. If you have any other texts for translation, do not hesitate to send them to me and I’ll get to work on them upon my return.
With my prayers and very warmly in Christ,