The Alpha Course: A History of Big Questions

Posted by Les Ellison  ·  Be the first to comment

20 years on, and the Alpha Course is still helping new and experienced belivers and non-believers in 166 countries around the world find answers to the big questions of life and faith.

Asking the Big Questions of Life and Faith

Nicky Gumble: Asking The Big Questions

The Alpha Course began in 1979 when Charles Marnham, a curate at Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), set out to create an informal course for new believers on the basics of Christian faith.

His vision was to create a first point of contact and a pathway through issues of faith that were neither dead-end nor a never-ending road.

In 1986, barrister turned curate , Nicky Gumbel, joined the project.

Already christened ‘Alpha’ by Charles' wife, Tricia, under Nicky's leadership, the ten week course was revised and refocused until, by the end of 1992, the course had developed its 5 key components:

1.    Simple, friendly meals for course member 'guests'.
2.    Seeker sensitive  worship presentations.
3.    Straight-forward talk on basic aspects of the Christian faith.
4.    Small group discussions.
5.    A weekend retreat.

Piloted at Holy Trinity Church, the 10-week course was attracting 600 new people a year, most of them with no prior Christian commitment. 4 out of 5 went on to join an HTB home group.

Spreading Alpha Throughout London and the US

Following HTB’s success, church leaders across London invited the Alpha team to teach them how to run the course on their own.

By the end of 1993, 200 UK churches were running the Alpha Course for more than 4,600 inquirers. A further 2-day training event spread the course to 750 congregations with an HTB published curriculum and Manual for Guests.

In 1995, Alpha reached America with the first US Alpha Conference at Truro Episcopal Church, Virginia. By the end of the year more than 50 churches in the US were hosting the course.

Courses for Every Occasion, Nation and Situation

In the remaining years of the millennium Alpha’s reputation and the demand for its resources spread throughout the Christian world. To meet this demand ‘Alpha International’ sent teams to conduct 2-day Alpha Conferences wherever they were invited to go.

In this century, the number of churches running the Alpha Course continues to grow. There are now over 55,000 courses worldwide in 166 countries with Alpha keenly supported by all the major denominations; thanks to the 44 theologians from 40 different Christian traditions who contributed to the course book Questions of Life and The Alpha Manual.

Nicky Gumbel and the HTB team have never rested on the success of Alpha. Specialist courses have been developed to answer questions of faith relating to marriage, youth issues, searching issues, later years, the work place, the military life and in the context of prison life.

Exploring Faith with Friends and Food

Over 20 years, Alpha’s big questionmark logo has become the sign that welcomes people who don't go to church but have questions to ask. Providing a friendly environment for talking honestly about life's most important issues, the course remains based around 10, one evening a week meetings with dinner together, a thought provoking short DVD and an invitation to talk.

More than 2.5million in the UK alone have explored the big issues of life through an Alpha Course which remains the ready made tried and tested course of choice for many churches looking to share the gospel in their community with an easy access, no risk, open to all look at what life is really all about.

27th March

March 27th, 2013 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison

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