PEP Newsletter

Ideas For Your Parish


November, 2017

Something Old, Something New

                The Alpha approach to parish adult faith enrichment has been around since 1977.  Nicky Gumbel, an Anglican priest in London began it as a small group effort to help bring people into a relationship with Jesus Christ by sharing the good news of the Gospel.  It was directed to church-goers and non-church-goers alike.  Alpha spread to other countries, including the United States.  By 2016, more than 29 million people had exper-ienced Alpha.  Primarily a Protestant model, only recently has it found its way into Catholic parishes.  One leader of a Catholic group commented, “I have not seen another ‘church video series’ that touched such a broad group of people.  The amazing thing is how the videos impact people.  Even if someone didn’t like one as well as another, they all said they were thought-provoking and led to meaningful discussions, sometimes much deeper than anyone expected.  The videos are a means to an end.  I think the deeper learning came in the small group discussions and prayer.”  Alpha is free and accessible to anyone.  (See


How It Works

            The Leaders Guide describes Alpha as “a series of fifteen interactive sessions typically run over eleven weeks, including a weekend away where anyone can explore life and the Christian faith in a friendly, open and informative environment.” (Alpha Team Guide, p. 67.)  Each of the interactive sessions has three parts.  It starts with a meal and people enjoying one another’s company.  This is followed by a video presentation lasting 20 to 25 minutes.  After this comes table conversations of six to eight people each at which they share their reactions to the video, how it affected them or touched their own experience. 

            Two parishes in Pewaukee, WI, Queen of Apostles and St. Anthony on the Lake, teamed up to offer a pilot last Spring.  They liked it enough to offer Alpha again in the Fall.  Kathie Amidei, the coordinator at St. Anthony’s remarked, “Through this Alpha course the groups saw themselves as one.  We had younger, older, those with differing devotional propensities, well-informed Catholics, neophyte Catholics, both involved parishioners and those who were marginal in their Catholic faith.  I was amazed at how this approach reached literally all of these folks in a personal spiritual experience that deepened their faith.  That is obviously the work of the Holy Spirit.”  Liz Kuhn, the coordinator at Queen of Apostles added, “We surveyed both our guests and our volunteers after Alpha.  Ninety-nine percent of the guests said they would invite a friend to Alpha.”


Outline of the Sessions

            There are eleven two-hour sessions, with a weekend day away following the seventh one.  The topics for the sessions are: 1) Is there more to life than this?  2) Who is Jesus?  3) Why did Jesus die?  4) How can I have faith?  5) Why and how should I pray?  6) Why and how should I read the bible?  7) How does God guides us?  8) How can I resist evil?  9) Why and how should I tell others?  10) Does God heal today?  11) What about the Church?  The four sessions presented during the weekend day away are:       1) Who is the Holy Spirit?  2) What does the Holy Spirit do?  3) How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit?  4) How can I make the most of the rest of my life?  Liz Kuhn remarked, “Alpha is just that, an introduction.  Interested folks can dig deeper into Catholicism afterwards.  It makes evangelization easy.”