A Church of St Mary of the Angels home Alpha session in progress.

Small groups meeting in parishioners’ homes certainly help people share better, say participants of a parish Alpha programme.

The experience could also be a stepping stone for participants to join or form Small Christian Communities (SCCs), say organisers.

The St Mary of the Angels parish started its home Alpha programme in January. There are presently 25 participants, 10 of whom are not Catholics.

Organisers and participants say the more intimate home environment helps people feel more comfortable with one another.

The smaller group size certainly helps, says Mr Christopher Chan, a Catholic. In a larger group, one might be more reluctant to speak up, he added.

Mrs Janet Ker, a non-Catholic, agrees.

“We can share better. We’re not so shy because we meet every week,” says Mrs Ker, a non-Catholic, who attends the home sessions with her Catholic husband, Danny.

Each of the four groups meets either on Monday, Tuesday or Thursday evenings or on Monday mornings.

The proposed group size is about 12 people comprising the hosts, two facilitators and about eight participants.

Each session begins with a video presentation by Rev Nicky Gumble, the Anglican pastor who developed the Alpha programme, followed by group sharing.

Ms Katy Morrison, the parish’s home Alpha coordinator, notes that participants are hesitant to speak up and ask questions in larger groups.

However, they feel “safe and welcomed” in parishioners’ homes, she says.

The parish hopes that after the programme, the non-Catholics would join the Rite of Christian Initiation or one of the SCCs, to be part of a faith community. For the Catholics, it is hoped they would be able to join an existing SCC.

The Alpha group could become an SCC as well.

There are other programmes and courses the parish is looking into, said Ms Morrison, but added that the parish would also need to discuss with participants their options after the Alpha programme.

One of the host couples, Tim and Pat de Souza, said they found this home initiative worth supporting. They are also involved with SCCs and see Alpha as a way to bring people to SCCs.

Mrs de Souza said that allowing non-Catholics to experience SCCs will help them grasp Catholicism better as they hear how the baptised community live the faith in daily life.

Meanwhile, parish priest Franciscan Friar John-Paul Tan says he sees Alpha as “one way by which the SCCs can share their faith with their neighbours”.

The Alpha programme consists of weekly sessions of talks on video covering topics on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, the Bible, prayer and healing.

It was developed in the late 1970s by the Anglican Church in the United Kingdom as a means of presenting the basic principles of the Christian faith to new Christians in a relaxed and informal setting.

It was later adapted for non-Christians as a practical introduction to the faith.

By Darren Boon
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