The Australian National Alpha Conference, held November 17-18 in the Hillsong Conference Centre, Baulkham Hills, explained perfectly what Alpha courses are all about and how to conduct them in a variety of locations.
The guest speakers, the Rev. Nicky Gumbel and the Vicar, the Rev. Sandy Millar, are both from Holy Trinity Brompton, an Anglican Church in London, where the Rev. Charles Marnham first started Alpha courses in 1977. Their years of experience in sharing the whole concept and professional communication skills, enabled those present to better understand what was possible and practical in sharing Christianity with others.
Other guests included Emmy Wilson, who began Alpha for Prisons and musician Andy Piercy, who provided the musical items.
Approximately 2,000 representatives attended from across Australia, as well as from a variety of overseas countries, to participate in the main auditorium meetings, as well as work shops and seminars.
Every delegate was presented with a variety of literature, handbooks and information, thanks to the team led by Mona Carter, the National Director of Alpha Australia.
Even the main meals and refreshments were served in a professional manner, with military precision, so that even those with special dietary needs were catered for.
At the Opening Meeting, the Senior Minister of the Hillsong Church, Pastor Brian Houston welcomed the guests, supported by the Rev. Professor James Haire, President of the National Council of Churches in Australia, as well as the Rev. Tim Costello, the former National President of the Baptist Union of Australia.
Mr Costello closed his comments with the statement: "Thank you for being here. Take it seriously!"
Mr Millar, who is known for his experience in church growth ministry, explained that the reason Alpha had been so successful was because; "the Holy Spirit has adopted it". It has proved its positive attributes in 80% of the prisons in the United Kingdom and has been used by every mainline denomination to explain Christianity to those who do not attend churches.
Mr Gumbel, who took over the running of the Alpha courses in 1990, stated, right at the very beginning, that the aim of an Alpha Course is to "introduce people to the Lord Jesus Christ and Him crucified".
The lectures that followed over the next two days, dealt with The Principles of Alpha, The Practicalities, a Model Alpha Evening, Small Groups and Pastoral Care, Ministry on Alpha, Questions and Answers and Integrating Alpha into the Church.
Some of the practical issues included ideas on how "hosts" should welcome "guests" and finishing with the subject, How Can a Person be Full of the Holy Spirit.
On Day 1, Seminars were led by experienced leaders who shared information on Prayer on Alpha, Administration on Alpha, Alpha in Prisons, Business Alpha, Youth Alpha and Alpha in a Roman Catholic Content.
Seminars on Day 2 included Worship on Alpha, Developing an Existing Alpha Course, Caring for Ex-Offenders, Student Alpha, Expanding our Horizons - which dealt with Alpha for the Deaf, in Nursing Homes and a variety of
outreach projects. The most popular seminar was Linking Alpha with the
Marriage Course, which had participants standing in every available space.
The team then moved on to New Zealand, where a National Alpha Conference was held November 24-25, in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell Auckland. Following New Zealand, guests at a Lunch with Nicky Gumbel in the Fullerton Hotel, Singapore could judge for themselves: "Christianity: Boring, Untrue and Irrelevant?"
Such is the drive and determination of the Alpha personnel, helping churches to reach out to those who are interested in knowing what Christianity is all about.
For further information, contact Alpha Australia, PO Box 57, Hunters Hill NSW 2110; phone: 61-2-9816 5477; fax: 61-2-9816 5795.