This week's resource for parish evangelization that I would like to recommend it ALPHA. In addition, I would recommend a small book in the Divine Renovation Series called Unlocking Your Parish: Making Disciples and Raising Up Leaders with Alpha.
I most recently went through the Alpha Program again at St. Peter's Parish in Massena. If you are considering running an Alpha Program at your parish I would highly recommend participating in an Alpha first. You will have a much better sense of how the process works and how it can be addapted to your own parish.
The beauty of Alpha is that you can invite anyone to the process. It is a basic introduction to Jesus, prayer, faith and the meaning of life. It consists of a meal, a talk (the new and improved videos are wonderful) and then small group discussions where participants share their thoughts, experiences and ideas about the topic presented.
Objections I hear a lot about the Alpha process are:
It is not Catholic: True, Alpha was started by an Anglican, but it is not Not Catholic … it is the basic kerygma, that initial introduction of who Jesus is, why he matters, what has done for us. It is thoroughly Christian and can help people enter into the relationship with Jesus, and his Church. Because it is so basic, it allows our Catholic faithful, who may have connected with church and Sacrament, but never realized that they can have a personal relationship with Jesus today to encounter Jesus in a non-threatening way. Similarly, those of other Christian backgrounds, or no religious background at all, can also connect with the process and come to discover for themselves the love Jesus has for them.
It is too simple, it couldn't possibly do anything: ALPHA is not a silver bullet. It is not catechesis, or RCIA. But it is a process that allows us, by design, to go OUT of our churches and to focus on spreading the gospel. It will not convert everyone, and it isn't FOR everyone. But it does create a shallow end of the pool, where people can dip their toes into this thing we call Church, and where those who may have drifted away from Church can find a way back.
The little book Unlocking Your Parish: Making Disciples and Raising Up Leaders with Alpha shares how Alpha is run at St. Benedict Parish in Halifax and gives some pointers, do's, and don'ts based on what they learned and experienced.
If your parish is interested in running Alpha, I would highly recommend sending a small group to go through Alpha as participants (St. Peter's Parish in Massena is starting another Alpha on October 1), browse through the material on the Alpha website (alphausa.org) and have potential team members read and discuss the Unlocking your Parish book.
Additionally, you may want to read this recent article in the North Country Catholic (Feb 27,2019) about Alpha and the experiencese of some of the participants.