Lifestyle

Alpha offers questions and answers about faith

By SCOTT BATTISHILL

For the Mirror

Whether you believe in God or not, whether you place your belief system in another faith altogether or choose to believe not to believe in anything, the questions one must ask and examine for themselves to make that decision are the most important you will ever answer.

Those questions and ensuing answers have eternal ramifications. Perhaps you believe in heaven, you believe in reincarnation or you don’t believe anything exists after you die. Regardless, you are making a decision about eternity. Each of those decisions then dictates how you live today.

Why, then, do we stop short so often in truly examining our questions about faith? Why do we often give more thought and introspection to where we live, what car to buy or what we’re having for lunch tomorrow?

For many of us, where we’re going to live and what we’re having for lunch are pretty easy questions to answer. But for many, buying a car is terribly uncomfortable because we have preconceived notions about the process. We don’t want to deal with stereotypical salespeople, we don’t want to be up-sold at every turn in the process and we don’t like people digging as deep into our pockets as they possibly can.

It’s a preconceived notion. Not all dealerships are like that, but some are. The local church falls victim to a similar notion.

People have sought out answers to their faith questions in the past to only be pushed too quickly into making a decision, or they’ve viewed a televangelist who whines for money promising blessings in the name of faith. It’s a turn-off. And it’s wrong.

So where does that leave us? London-based Holy Trinity Brompton Church started a program called Alpha more than 20 years ago, designed to create the most non-intimidating environment as possible to allow people of all faiths and backgrounds –– no matter where one is in their life –– to have their questions answered without ever being asked to join the church or dig in their pocket for anything. Alpha spread, and is now offered in every state in the U.S.

Alpha organizers say people come from many different backgrounds, holding many different viewpoints. But ultimately, all come with the same objective: To establish whether Jesus Christ has any real relevance for their lives.

Starting April 10 at 5 p.m., New Community Church in Federal Way will offer a free Alpha program for anybody to attend from any walk of life.

Here is how Alpha works: The evening starts with a free dinner provided for all. After dinner, a humorous video featuring Reverend Nicky Gumble is shown; Nicky throws out all the possible thoughts people have about the Christian faith and answers them –– questions like why did Jesus have to die, do I have to believe in Jesus to enter heaven, is there such a thing as heaven, and if there is, what does that mean for my reality today? Once the video is over, people are invited –– in small groups –– to ask any question they want about faith. Or better yet, they can ask no questions at all and simply listen to questions others ask.

There is no pressure. There will be one person from New Community Church at each table to facilitate the discussion, but they are not there to thump their Bible. They are there to listen, ask others what they think and provide thoughts, ultimately allowing each individual to come to their own conclusions. Nobody is asked to join the church, and nobody is charged a dime.

Alpha will go on for 10 consecutive Sunday nights, with each week’s video and ensuing discussions getting a bit more in-depth in Christian faith issues. People are welcome to come to the first Sunday and stay for all 10 or come any time in between. Free childcare will be available. The gym will be open for older kids to play games or sports under adult supervision.

Faith is a process. Alpha allows that process to take its natural pace.

Scott Battishill is a member of New Community Church.

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