Alpha program for prospective Christians looks to plant roots in Thompson

Pastor Al Bayne will host meeting at Christian Centre Fellowship Aug. 30

Al Bayne, who is winding up his ministry as pastor of St. Pierre Bible Fellowship, south of Winnipeg, and taking over as Alpha director for Manitoba and northwestern Ontario Sept. 1, will be in Thompson Aug. 30 to pitch the program for prospective Christians to local Protestant and Catholic clergy and lay leaders.

Bayne is no stranger to making a pitch. Long-time Thompson residents may remember him from the years he lived here that included a period working as an advertising representative for the old Thompson Times in his pre-clergy days.

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The Alpha planning meeting is set for 9 a.m. Monday at Pastor Ted Goossen's Christian Centre Fellowship at 328 Thompson Dr. N.

"Alpha has many tools available to help churches introduce people to Christianity," Bayne says in an invitations sent out earlier this month to local Protestant and Catholic clergy.

"I hope to inspire and challenge you, and be available to answer any questions you may have.

"The use of Alpha as a church tool is growing rapidly throughout the whole world, and Alpha is producing new courses to accommodate different areas of society where it can be presented. I have led three successful Alpha courses in my own church, and have recently attended an International Alpha Conference.

"Also, Iam available to preach on Sunday the 29th. My passion is kingdom building, and I would bring an inspiring Bible based message toyour congregation."

The Alpha course originated with Rev. Charles Marnham in 1973 at Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London, England. The name "Alpha"' was suggested by Marnham's wife, Tricia. It started as a course for church members on the basics of the Christian faith but soon began to be used as an introduction for those interested in the faith. Holy Brompton is an evangelical Anglican church in a fashionable section of London. It is the largest Anglican church in Britain with a regular attendance of around 4,000 people - most aged between 18 and 35.

Since 1990, Alpha has been closely associated with Nicky Gumbel, the current vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, who was an avowed atheist at one time. Gumbel became a Christian during his first year reading law in 1973 at Trinity College in Cambridge through studying the Bible's New Testament, he later said. His 1994 book, Questions of Life: A Practical Introduction to the Christian Faith - the Alpha course in book form - has sold more than a million copies worldwide.

Since 1993, more than 15 million people have completed the Alpha course in 163 countries around the world. There are over 7,000 courses running in the United Kingdom and over 44,000 worldwide in various denominations.

Originally offered mainly by Protestant denominations, Alpha has in recent years been supported with mixed enthusiasm by the Roman Catholic Church. In archdioceses and dioceses where archbishops and bishops have recommended it to their clergy, Alpha has been found to be compatible with Catholic teaching, but not presenting wholly Catholic issues in their entirety. Alpha assumes follow-up teachings will be offered to those wishing to become Catholic.

Alpha is now also beginning to grow in Orthodox churches in Russia, Greece and North Africa.

The Alpha course is typically organized in 10-week sessions, traditionally preceded by an "Alpha Supper," which often includes the talk: "Is there more to life than this?"

Bayne, in a recent guest "Spiritual Thoughts" column for the Nickel Belt News, wrote, " I can't find 'retirement' in the Bible. Instead, I have accepted an invitation from Alpha Ministries Canada to be its new regional director for Manitoba, effective Sept. 1."

Bayne was both a student and a teacher at Providence College and Theological Seminary in Otterburne, near St. Pierre. "Inspired by my love for wilderness canoeing, I taught a course in wilderness leadership for five years at Providence," he said.

Bayne is the author of the 1999 book Bugs, Sweat, and Fears, published by Winnipeg's Turnstone Press. He is a former director of Wild-Wise, a wilderness canoe program operated by Manitoba Pioneer Camp. Bayne took his first canoe trip at the age of 38.

He's been married "to my childhood sweetheart, Barbara, for 43 years ... I have attended St. Pierre Bible Fellowship since coming to faith there in the 1980's. I have served two terms as pastor and plan to remain a part of that faith community as I assume my new role with Alpha."

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