Alpha invites those wishing to learn about Christianity


Alteira Greene

Sophia Congdon

A psychology major, a business major, and an English major all walk into a room. No, this is not the start of some terrible new joke your Uncle Larry has brought along to torture everyone at Sunday dinner. Rather, this describes the typical start to an Alpha meeting.

What is Alpha? As opposed to a program like Core, which is designed for people who are already Christian, Alpha is a program designed specifically for people seeking to learn about Christianity.

According to Sophia Congdon, an intern for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the campus club that hosts the program, “[Alpha] is meant to be an open place to explore Christianity or to grow in the Christian faith. Alpha is designed to be something that anyone can come to, so the variety of people that are there really helps.”

The format of Alpha is intentional. “The way in which the discussion is facilitated is based on questions and not giving a speech,” says Congdon. Allowing those both within InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and without to talk about Christianity is important, she says.

“It’s an open community,” says Allison Roberts, a new Christian.

Sophia Cordner, vice president of Johnson’s IVCF chapter, continually emphasizes the “community aspect” of the Alpha meetings, and Congdon mentions the word community multiple times as well in her description of the program. “I think a lot of people can still benefit from coming,” says Cordner.

Approachability and a welcoming atmosphere are important when starting a program such as this, but what specifically makes an Alpha program feel open? “First of all, it’s designed to be something that anyone can come to, so the variety of people that are there really helps,” says Congdon. “I think also, it’s approachable because we start off with a film, and so . . . you don’t really have to be very interactive to participate,” she continues. Attendees can show up and simply listen.

In preparation for each Alpha meeting, the person facilitating the night’s discussion prepares an outline of topics and goes over the material being presented. However, “the discussion itself isn’t meant to be just a bunch of Christian thoughts bouncing around,” says Congdon. “It’s supposed to be an open discussion for people with any spiritual background.”

Diversity appears to be an important part of the Alpha program as well. “It brings the community in closer, especially with the ethnicities,” says Cordner. With multiple perspectives, “it’s a way for people to learn from each other,” Cordner says.

“[IVCF is] also nondenominational so it really is a great place for whatever denomination you’re from,” says Congdon. Nondenominational means that Alpha meetings are only centered on ideas that are universally accepted by all Christians, keeping spots where different branches of Christianity disagree out of the equation.

“My hope [was] that at least one person would come,” says Roberts, when talking about Alpha. At least one person did come, and each alpha meeting thus far has had about 15 people in attendance, with a mix of new and returning students each time.

With students at Johnson attending regularly, the Alpha program could grow with the commitment of its chapter of IVCF. “My hopes for the present, for Alpha, is . . . that it would be viewed as genuine, that’s open and that’s really a service to the campus,” Congdon said.

And hopes for the future? “That [other leaders in IVCF] could reach out to their own networks on campus and be able to provide an opportunity for their friends and their communities on campus to be able to grow in spiritual exploration,” says Congdon.