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Churches offer meaning-of-life courses

PUBLISHED: 18:10 14 September 2001 | UPDATED: 10:31 03 March 2010

PEOPLE in Felixstowe are being offered the opportunity to "explore the meaning of life" this autumn.

PEOPLE in Felixstowe are being offered the opportunity to "explore the meaning of life" this autumn.

Already more than 1.3 million adults nationwide have done so, and organisers are hoping many more will undertake an Alpha Course this time around.

The free courses are run by churches and provide an opportunity for people to find out about the Christian faith in a friendly and non-threatening atmosphere – and ask all the questions they want, however awkward or simple.

With many now of the view that Britain is no longer a Christian country, it has become difficult for the church to get its message across or even to explain to people what Christianity is all about.

It is hoped that the current televising of the fly-on-the-wall docu-soap Alpha: Will it change their lives? on ITV on Sunday nights and the growing interest in spiritual matters will encourage many people to join a course.

Five Felixstowe churches will be running courses, some starting this month and some next, and the evenings usually feature a meal, a talk or video, and then small discussion groups on the topic of the evening.

To launch its Alpha course, Felixstowe Salvation Army Corps is holding a dinner at the Waverley Hotel, Wolsey Gardens, on October 2 with a video-talk called "Christianity: Boring, Untrue, Irrelevant?" Anyone who would like to go along should ring 01394 284610.

Commanding officer Major Goff Payne said: "We have had more than 150 people come on courses in the past four years and some have joined our congregation and come to faith.

"Some are still exploring the faith and others are on the periphery. Some people have come along, listened, discussed, but at the end said, thank you very much, we really enjoyed it, but have taken it no further.

"It is a chance for people to find out more. Many people say they believe in God and many pray, but they don't always understand or know why. There is no pressure at Alpha course and the only commitment is in time, the ten weeks of the course."

In Britain 7,000 churches of all denominations are involved in the Alpha project and 1.3m people have been on a course, which are also now run in prisons and universities. There is also a Youth Alpha for teenagers.

Organisers say it is a chance to "explore the meaning of life", to look for answers to the big questions, and learn about Christianity in a contemporary and practical way in a relaxed and informal setting.

The hope is that it will help reverse the decline in church attendance over the past 20 years. Only 7.5 per cent of the population now regularly attend church, but many churches running Alpha report congregations growing.

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