What is Alpha?


Folks in Highland County may have noticed signs recently along roads and in buildings that include sayings like, “Alpha is Coming,” or “What is Alpha?”  Pastor Mary Robinson is the Director of Alpha for Highland County and has been hoping to pique interest in this program, which is a chance for anyone to explore and question the meaning of life in a casual atmosphere along with a provided meal.

Pastor Mary Robinson says, “Alpha’s a series of sessions exploring the Christian faith, typically run over ten weeks.  Each session looks at different questions around the faith and is designed to create conversation.  Alphas run all around the globe, and everyone is welcome, regardless of your beliefs.  A typical Alpha runs in cafes, churches, universities, homes, even prisons, you name it.  No two Alphas look the same, but they generally have three key things in common: food, a talk, and good conversation.  First up: food.  Whether it’s a group of friends gathered around a kitchen table or a quick catch up over coffee and cake, food has a way of bringing people together.  It’s no different at Alpha.  We start with food because it’s a great way to encourage community and get to know each other, then a talk shown by DVD.  The talks are designed to engage and inspire conversation, generally thirty minutes long, and they set the stage for further discussion and small groups.  They explore the big issues around faith and unpack the basics of Christianity, addressing questions such as, ‘Who is Jesus?’ and ‘How can we have faith?’ followed by discussion, probably the most important part of any Alpha, the chance to share thoughts and ideas on the topic and simply discuss it in a small group.  There’s no obligation to say anything and there’s nothing you can’t say.  It’s an opportunity to hear from others and contribute your own perspective in an honest, friendly, and open environment.”

Pastor Robinson, and her husband, have participated in and enjoyed the experience of Alpha in South Carolina but just moved to Highland County a little over a year ago.  She explains why Alpha is being introduced in this area.  She says, “Being a Christian educator before I became an ordained minister, my heart was for Christian education, and the Lord just laid it on my heart that we needed something county-wide to bring people together that have questions, so I just knew right away, Alpha was it.”

Alpha will be hosted at Monterey Presbyterian Church, but Pastor Robinson explains that it is not a Presbyterian-specific program.  Rather, the program is ecumenical and is open to all denominations and faiths.  The Alpha course is not meant to be a substitute for church.  Pastor Robinson continues, “We are not proselytizing from churches.  What Alpha wants to do is take disciples deeper in their faith so that they feel they know they’re giftedness and go back to their churches and serve the church.  The greatest gift of all is the discussion in the small groups, making new friends, and going deeper in friendships, so what we really want is the transformation of lives which happens with the small groups.  Come, and bring a friend.  Hope to see you there!”

The Alpha course runs for ten consecutive Monday nights beginning September 25th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the Monterey Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall.  In order to make sure enough food is provided, those interested in coming to Alpha may let Pastor Mary Robinson know by calling 540-396-3337, but registration is not required.  More information is also available at www.alphausa.org.


Story By

Chris Swecker

is the Assistant Station Coordinator and a News Reporter for WVLS. He has roots in Highland County going back several generations, and he grew up in Monterey. Since graduating from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design, he has pursued his career at a news station and advertising agency in Virginia, on Microsoft’s campus in the state of Washington, and in both states as sole owner and employee of a video production company. He enjoys exploring life with his wife, Jessa Fowler, traveling, hiking, hunting, gardening, and trying new foods, all while discovering more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He feels blessed to be a small part of this talented AMR team to help give back to the community that has provided him with so much.

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