Janette and David Willson are the Alpha leaders from the Diocese of Port Pirie, and were incredibly blessed this year with a large, dedicated team of leader/helpers drawn from four faith traditions. Both Janette and David share how hosting Alpha at the Port Pirie Yacht Club has allowed them to reach and gather a really diverse group that in usual circumstances may have never crossed paths.
Tell us about running Alpha at Port Pirie Yacht club
On the first night we had just under 50 guests meet together along with 15 leaders and helpers. This was such a special night as both the leaders and helpers shared their personal Alpha journey. Week by week, as each topic was presented, guests learnt to listen to the experiences and thoughts of others in their small groups, as well as express their own.
An unexpected progression was the depth and ease with which people prayed in the small groups. Small group leaders wrote down guest prayer requests and placed them in our ‘prayer box’, then the group prayed for them. Quickly, the desire to pray became paramount.
We concluded this Alpha by passing the ‘prayer box’ to each guest to offer their individual prayer before congregating on the waterfront to burn these prayers while reciting the ‘Our Father’. This was definitely an interesting witness to the young people who meet at the nearby boat ramp!
What kind of guests attended your Alpha?
The guests were from varied faith traditions or none at all, so having both Baptist Pastor Roger Kleinig and Lutheran Pastor Brian Keller at most sessions proved to be a great support to the leadership team.
It’s incredible to see the transformation of each of the guests. Looking back, this group seemed so different to the individuals that had tentatively assembled at the Port Pirie Yacht Club for the Welcome Dinner.
What has been your highlight at Alpha?
A highlight was when, on the Holy Spirit Day, Fr. Francis Montero joined our pastors in sharing their individual faith journeys before coming together to lead the liturgy. Following this, they each led a team in praying for each guest individually. Formed at random, each team consisted of a Baptist, a Catholic and a Lutheran.
Alpha is an experience and, like any experience, trying to measure results in the short term is almost impossible. The leader/helpers put in a huge effort and commitment, but were filled with joy as they witnessed God working in the guests. Mindful of this, we are so grateful for the courage and faith of our Bishop who has supported this undertaking from the beginning.
In the words of Alpha Founder, Nicky Gumbel, “…if you taking nothing else away from this course, know that you are loved by God, …”.
How do you prepare for Alpha?
Our first step is to pray, we spend time together praying about Alpha in a number of groups. Additionally, we approach a team of people in our Parish to pray every day for the duration of the 10-week program.
With the support of our Bishop and Parish Priest we usually promote Alpha at Sunday Mass and offer a simple explanation of what it is all about. We have previously advertised through the Parish bulletin and had an open invitation for people to attend.
The program from the practical side is about hospitality. It means going the extra mile to let people know that they are worthwhile and valued by their Church family.
The spiritual side is surrendered to Jesus as we ask him to strengthen the hearts of those seeking him out in their personal life. We strongly believed that soaking Alpha in prayer, followed by the practical and spiritual aspects of this program has become the key to evangelising communities within our diocese.
We have discovered that the experience of Alpha allows the individual to accept the call of Jesus. Over time, we have witnessed people who have done Alpha accept ownership of their faith and step out to take on ministry roles and responsibilities within their Parish.