Thursday, 25 May 2017

CBWC Assembly, Calgary

Westview Baptist
I'm in Calgary this week. Drove down Tuesday morning and made a few calls and appointments, both here and on the way down. (Living Stones, Crossroads, Red Deer)

Very encouraging, what's happening in our Alpha churches. I'm hearing nothing but good stories and plans for the future. The only negative I ever hear is the one common to many churches; that is encouraging/motivating/emboldening people in the congregations to invite.

But Alpha is still effective in introducing people to Jesus, and God is using it to bring many people into His Kingdom.

I'm here to represent Alpha at the CBWC (Canadian Baptists of Western Canada) Assembly, being held here at Westview Baptist in Calgary. This being Thursday, and just coming up to 11:00 AM, things have not officially started yet. I have just finished setting up our display, and already met one of my Alpha pastors, just walking through the door; Jeff Gullacher of Trinity Baptist, Sherwood Park.

Shaila Visser, Alpha Canada's National Director is also coming, and if I'm not mistaken, will have a bit of stage time. Shaila is a very effective speaker, a great champion for Alpha and a passionate supporter and encourager of local churches. After all, that is the whole purpose of Alpha - not to be in competition with local churches, but to give them the training and the tools to reach their communities for Christ.

I'm here until Saturday night (sorry if that sounds a bit like Henny Youngman) I'll let you know how it goes.

Blessings,

John

Update: Shaila gets a bit more than just "a bit" of stage time. Check the schedule at 6:45 Friday.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

More From LC17

5562 (Capacity crowd) at Royal Albert Hall

Here are some of them

Self Explanatory I'm Sure

This is church at HTB (Holy Trinity Brompton, Anglican, if you were wondering) Not your traditional Anglican service.

Nicky and Pippa Gumbel
Until next time,

Blessings,

John

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

#LC17

LC17 is where we are right now; - Alpha Leadership Conference at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, UK, the birthplace of Alpha. There is lots going on, some of which I hope to share, but for now, I'll just mention a seminar I attended by Fr. James Mallon, Parish priest at St Benedict's Catholic Parish in Halifax. Also there and presenting was Christian songwriter Matt Maher. The topic was:


I'd like to quote just a few nuggets of wisdom I gleaned from his talk,

    • Don't use people to build your ministry; use your ministry to build up people.
    • Alpha as a program is great; Alpha as a culture is phenomenal.
    • Our churches should have a sign on their doors, "Enter at your own risk!" We should expect people to encounter Christ when they come through our doors.
    • A parishioner complained to Fr. Mallon: "Alpha, Alpha, Alpha - all you ever talk about is Alpha!" To which Fr James replied, "Well, when people start coming to Christ through your ministry I'll start talking about that."

Blessings,

John

Monday, 17 April 2017

Student Led Alpha

This story comes out of BC, but it's happening in many schools in Alberta too.


What a difference it makes.

Blessings,

John

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Coincidences in Camrose

I thought it was time I made another trip to  Camrose Alberta. But I woke up Wednesday morning to a dense fog outside my window and reports of  multiple resultant traffic accidents on the radio. My mind was changed. So I fired off an email to a half- dozen church leaders in that city asking if the next day (Thursday, although that should go without saying, I suppose), would be convenient. I received one reply that, unfortunately, it wouldn't, but that was not enough to alter my plans for the day so off I went.

My first call was to Pastor of Adult Ministries, Jesse Schellenberg, at Century Meadows Baptist. I arrived there at about 9:45 and approached the receptionist. I introduced myself and she said she would see if anyone was available to see me. Returning, she informed me that Pastor Jesse was available and ushered me to his office. Jesse greeted me warmly, said he was glad to meet me (we have communicated in the past, but only by telephone), but said he only had a few minutes as he had a meeting at Starbucks (St. Arbucks, as I like to refer to that establishment within the church community) at 10.

So we had a very nice conversation for about ten minutes. Both he and his senior pastor, Ed Lehman, are big fans of Alpha, especially the new(ish) Alpha Film Series aimed Primarily at the 18-35-year-old generation. I was the one who looked at my watch and noticed it was ten o'clock, so I excused myself, thanking him very much for the brief time he was able to spare me. I returned to my car and checked my phone for messages (for a number of very good reasons, I tend not to do so while I'm driving.) I noticed there was a message from Jesse, received at 9:14, with apologies that, as he had a meeting at 10 o'clock, he would be unable to meet me that morning.

Oops. The next day (Friday, of course) I sent him a note apologizing for my barging in anyway and thanking him for being so gracious. Looking back, it was a very good meeting in any case, so God must have been orchestrating things in spite of my lapses.

I made a few more calls, to the Church of Christ, to  City Lights, the PAOC church in town who have taken over a former Safeway store and made quite a beautiful facility out of it. On my way to the church of Christ I got lost on the wrong side of the tracks, but in my wandering I passed a building labelled, "The Solid Rock." I wasn't sure if it was a church or a curling rink, but I took a chance and dropped in. It turned out to be a Free Lutheran Church, the building a former roller rink, so I spent a few minutes in conversation, left some Alpha information, and went on my way.

"So when are we going to hear about these coincidences?" you may ask. Well thanks for asking - I'll get to them now.

Camrose is the Western Canada Regional heaquarters of the Church of God.  They used to be in a house right next door to the local Camrose Church of God, but moved to a location on 48th Street right across from the above mentioned City Lights Church. So I popped in right after speaking with Senior Pastor Clayton Milgate at City Lights. I didn't spend a lot of time there, but left some information on Alpha and planted the seed that I would be willing to help out, in a denominational sense, if they thought there might be an opportunity to participate in some kind of denomination-wide event regarding outreach or evangelism.

I hadn't planned to drop into the actual Camrose Church of God location, but there they were, right on my route, on the main east-west street of the city, so my car just sort of turned in. It was 11:35 AM. I approached the receptionist and introduced myself as being with Alpha Canada. She said, "Oh, we were just talking about you. Just a minute." She went to an office and back out came Connections Pastor Manfred Boller.

"What a COINCIDENCE!" he said. "We were just wondering what we could do about outreach and connections within our congregations. Can I get you a coffee?" I looked at my watch. It was getting close to noon and I was feeling a bit peckish. "Why don't I just buy you lunch?" I said.

That was it. We went across the street to a Humpty's Restaurant and had a great conversation about his church, his personal history, and his hopes for everything from society at large, his congregation, and the next generation. In short, we pretty much hit it off. Long and short of it, when I uploaded the list of Alpha's in the Province the next morning, he had registered to run one.

Coincidence # 2 is one from the past. One of my first visits, upon first assuming my position with Alpha Canada about four years ago, had been to Camrose. Every call at that time was a cold call, because I didn't know anybody. One of my cold calls was to Camrose Community Church. I won't repeat the entire story, but you can read about it here and here. Of course I dropped in again and had another nice visit with Shannon. She was so pleased to hear that the Alpha for Youth is being redone and is looking forward to seeing and using it again in the fall.

All in all, Camrose seems to be a City of Godly Coincidences. Maybe I should spend more time there.

Blessings,

John


Friday, 10 March 2017

My Latest Challenge

I enjoy challenges. Usually I enjoy them more after I've seen a positive outcome than I do leading up to facing them. But I'm always amazed at how God orchestrates things. I must say I have not often been disappointed during my time in this Alpha ministry. There have been times I have been very nervous about some upcoming event or task, and spent much agonizing time in prayer, but when I look back I'm amazed at how well things worked out. I think it must be because it was God's will that they work out the way they did. It could have been a major event, an appointment with a church leader or just walking up to a church door making a cold call.

One thing that comes to mind is an idea I took from one of Jan Karon's Mitford books; that is, In any situation, if I don't know specifically what to pray, I can merely pray, "Thy will be done." It's the prayer that always works.

Another thing is that I sometimes seem to wake up in the middle of the night, greatly worried over something, and pleading to God in prayer, but everything seems better in the light of the next day. I wonder if that is the basis of the saying, "It's always darkest just before the dawn." Or, as the Bible puts it;
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b)
So... the challenge noted in the title above...

I just committed this week to run a training session for an Alpha in Mandarin. First time ever. I have some time - it's not until June - but that, hopefully, will give me time to think it through, get it straight in my mind and line up the resources I will need. Anita, the course administrator, has promised to provide an interpreter and Alpha does indeed have training videos subtitled in simplified Chinese characters, which Mandarin-speaking people understand. I will obviously use them, but I think the group, as do any who have never run Alpha before, will appreciate a personal presence for clarification and additional insight. I also have a couple of local Chinese Alpha coaches I can draw on for help.

So perhaps you'll join me in praying, in this and in all other challenges, "Thy will be done."

Blessings,

John

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Conversations on a Monday

I spoke with Pastor Paul Vallee of Living Stones church in Red Deer. I met with him earlier this year as Living Stones was about to begin their first regular Alpha in some time (they have run Alpha’s Youth Film Series a number of times). After that meeting, I made myself a reminder to call after their Alpha weekend to see how it went. I must say that my conversation with Pastor Paul made my day. They had 13 people pray to receive Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit. They saw two previously completely unchurched families arrive for church on Sunday morning and left impressed and loving it.

I also carried on an email conversation with City Centre Church, here in Edmonton. They are running Alpha in Prive Ultralounge next door to their office. Their Sunday morning services are held in a Landmark Cinema in Downtown Edmonton. Judging by the Lounge’s website I’d say, at the very least, it’s an interesting venue for an Alpha. Last night was their first night and they had 18 new people out to it.

I received an email from a church who has a long-ago history with Alpha, but now with a brand new team and staff in place, is interested in reviving it. I will call him today (Tuesday) and arrange to get together for coffee.

Finally (I shouldn’t say finally, because even though I’ve only posted about four items here, my day, even at home in my office, seems to fill up with any number of things to which to attend), but finally for this post, I fired off an email to Jocelyne, the Youth Coordinator for the Catholic Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan, with a sales pitch about why she should consider Alpha for the young people of her diocese. I first met Jocelyne when I dropped in unannounced to the Chancery office in Grande Prairie and caught the whole staff on their coffee break in the basement. She replied this morning, saying how she knows Alpha is a wonderful tool and she may use it next year. That may sound like a put-off, but I believe her. She is fairly new to her position, with lots to do, so I have made a note to call her later on in the year.  

That was my Monday, usually one of the slower days of my week.

Blessings,

John