Canada, as well as many other Western nations, is experiencing a mushrooming of churches using and drawing unchurched through the Alpha program, a Christian basics class.
The evangelical Faith Today magazine (September/October) reports that Alpha, started by charismatic Anglicans in Britain, has spread so widely in Canada that three-quarters of the churches using Alpha are not Anglican. Baptists are the group most commonly using Alpha, although 60 denominations — including mainline, evangelical and Catholic — also use the program. Close to 1,500 courses are running in Canada, compared to 240 three years ago. About 220,000 Canadians have taken the class since 1997. Writer Marianne Meed Ward notes that most of the people who attend Alpha are already Christian.
But this pattern tends to change the more times Alpha is offered at churches. “The more traditional churches are using [Alpha] as an in-reach with a view to renewing their own population, but with a longer term view to evangelize their communities. Smaller churches tend to look at this as a Bible study,” says Sally Stuart, national director of Alpha Ministries Canada.
(Faith Today, MIP Box 3745, Markham, Ont., Canada L3R 0Y4)/