As A CONVERT from Evangelicalism to the Catholic Church, I am naturally interested in ways of spreading the Faith. Whilst I feel the Catholics can learn much by observing the evangelism techniques and enthusiasm of our separated brethren, I have serious reservations about the Alpha Course, even in its Catholic adaptation.
The Alpha course is not simply a course of instruction to the Gospel, it is an introduction to an extreme form of charismatic spiritual experience which has no foundation in Catholic faith or practice, and goes far beyond any phenomena found in the Catholic charismatic renewal.
The Anglican Holy Trinity church, Brompton, which instituted Alpha, endorses the "Toronto Blessing" and is regularly the scene of mass hysteria, with swoonings, laughter, animal noises and trance-like states, supposedly the fruit of the Spirit. This highly unstable experience can produce initial euphoria, but in many cases it can result in later disillusionment and loss of faith. While it has parallels to the hysteria of past Evangelical revivals, the Catholic Church has never endorsed such emotionalism.
Furthermore, the course emphasises that the Bible is the sole word of God, that Christian healing can be effected with no reference to the sacrament of the sick, and
the participant is encouraged to read books which are unCatholic, or even antiCatholic, in their view of the Gospel, Church and authority These concepts are so embedded in the course that the Catholic supplementary lessons are seriously undermined. In fact I know Catholics who have been alienated from the Church by being introduced to this type of Evangelical Anglicanism. Indeed, in his recent book, Nicky Gumble, one of the Alpha course directors, rejoices in the millions won to Pentecostal sects in South America. What were these people before? Catholic, probably.
Robert Ian Williams Wrexhanr
ALPHA IS A COURSE designed to bring people to Christianity it has also proved to extremely effective at rejuvenating the faith of Catholics, especially "submarine" Catholics those who disappear for long periods only to resurface at Christmas and Easter. In this decade of evangelisation Alpha is a superb example of practical Christian principles examination of the Word of God centred around a communal meal and friendly discussion.
Having been personally involved in six Alpha courses involving over 120 people including Catholics at all stages of faith, I have notmet one whose faith was reduced as a result of the course quite the opposite. Participants are actively encouraged to read the Bible, to pray and to become active members of their Church.
David A Palmer Berkhamsted, Herz
I SHARE Anne Mothersgill's concern about the Alpha course and its use of Scripture. The challenge for me is that God does appear to be working through the Alpha course. God also seems to be building up evangelical Christian communities here in Lancaster.
I believe that Catholic involvement with these churches is essential. They have a simple message, lively' worship, a strong faith in God's power to act, and, friendly fellowship. God does seem to be working through those who do not have the fulness of truth. Who am I to question his wisdom?
Michael L Speight Lancaster
SCHOLARSHIP and critical method certainly have their: place, but they are not much use to people who have not heard the message in the first. place.
I and many others have found [Alpha) uplifting and stimulating, and not a few Catholics have begun to discover the Scriptures as a result of it.
Patrick Oliver Wrking, Surrey