Greatest success in homeland among Roman Catholics

Published April 1, 1999

If the advertising campaign is anything to go by, Alpha’s success in its home in the United Kingdom is a raging success. Last year it launched a 1-million pound ad campaign that caught even the attention of the CBC. It has just announced another £1-million advertising blitz for this year. There have been 6,456 Alpha courses in the U.K. to date, available in almost every community. With more than 650,000 people involved in the courses, the growth has been exponential since start up in 1991. Mark Elsdon-Dew, spokesperson for Alpha UK of Holy Trinity, Brompton, the evangelism program’s founding congregation, says Alpha is growing fast throughout the world and is running in churches of every denomination. The greatest growth in the UK is in the Roman Catholic Church. “Many courses are started up in a home, where people invite neighbours and friends to see an Alpha video. It is aimed at the unchurched, but it does bring new life to existing church goers,” said Mr. Elsdon-Dew. As in Canada, Alpha has also been a catalyst in the United Kingdom for ecumenical activity, said Mr. Elsdon-Dew. “We’ve found ecumenism through prayer, when the churches hosting Alpha programs get together to pray for their town.” The programs themselves, however, are not held ecumenically, so that participants can form friendships and a sense of belonging in one particular church home of the denomination of their choice. “In this way, participants are linked closely to a local church, unlike a mass crusade, where you then have to find yourself a local church to join.”Alpha organizers are finding the current “pick and mix” culture of spiritual seeking has led people many to investigate the Christian faith, as well as other religions. Today, Brits by and large are not immersed in any kind of Christian faith as in generations past, said Mr. Elsdon-Dew. As a result, they are exploring spirituality to find some soul satisfaction. “Alpha fits really quite nicely with this, and many think, ?There might just be something for me in the Christian faith.’ People are looking for an experience today, and I think we offer the traditional Christian faith in a style that is relevant to the culture of today. We’ve changed the wrapping, but the contents, the message remain the same,” he said. “We feel it is the Spirit of God at work here, and the fact that people are open in our generation means more and more are open to the Christian gospel.”


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