The Bishop of London Richard Chartres opened the Alpha International week this morning, speaking to representatives of over 100 countries gathered at HTB for the event.
This is a transcript of his opening words:
Christ is risen!
It is quite extraordinary to be here and to survey this great gathering. I am reminded that one of the blessings of this year is that we are all waiting for the festival of Pentecost.
We celebrate the festival of Pentecost next Sunday and I think that is true for most church calendars this year.
You remember how in the Holy Scriptures it says they 'were all together in one place' and that was when the gift was given to them.
‘All together in one place’. We are here of course together in the power of the Spirit to re-member Jesus Christ – not just to recall various memories of far ago and long away, not merely to conjure up those distant memories, but to re-member as opposed to dismembering.
To re-member in the power of the Spirit, to make his body present so that he can touch and love and heal in our own time in our own cities throughout this world.
It is a thrilling time in which we have been born.
We believe that Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the Omega because He is God’s plan, God’s vision for human life, for the whole human race. It is God’s plan that everything, in heaven and on earth, is to be summed up in Jesus Christ. He is the Alpha and the Omega.
But what we are facing today in today’s world is a 'Theta movement' – Theta standing for the Greek word Thanatos, meaning death – death by inattention, death by starvation, death by violence, death by hopelessness, death by absence of meaning, death in a world where we have the power to feed everybody but we don’t seem to have the will.
We are gathering here to remember Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit 'all together in one place' so that God’s plan for the future of the human race, that everything that needs to be summed up in him, will be realized, actualized. There will be flesh and blood on that vision and we are here as servants of that vision.
Christ is risen!
And of course Alpha has been an astonishing instrument. We are from many different parts off the church, with many different ways of worshipping and celebrating Jesus Christ. But there is no intention that there should be an Alpha 'sect'.
This method of reaching out and inviting today’s people to take seriously the claims of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit is not intended to create an Alpha 'sect'. This is a service to the whole church.
This is a servant ministry and I would like to salute those who have developed this servant ministry: Nicky Gumbel, the Abbot of Alpha, the fantastic team led by Tricia Neil, all those people who are making this event happen.
Over 16 million people have actually gone through an Alpha course. There are as we sit here 55,000 Alpha courses running around the world and that shows a growth of 17% since 2009, the last year for which we have full figures.
This is an astonishing service, it seems to me, for doing what we are called to do, which is to be all together in one place, to pray earnestly for power from on high, to re-member Jesus Christ, not to dismember him, and to play our part in God’s plan for the human race, that he is the way the truth and the life.
May God’s blessing be with you as we learn from one another, as we encourage one another in our service of Jesus Christ and his gospel. Amen.