Since March, Church has taken on a different look and feel for us all. It’s lead to a dramatic increase in ‘digital church’ with many of us now fully Zoom conversant even though we’d never heard of it three months ago!

While online streaming of services from homes across our diocese has become the norm, other church offerings such as small groups including Alpha have not been left behind. Having to ‘do things differently’ has revealed some surprising benefits.

Revd Jules Williams, Priest-in-charge of St Luke’s Boscoppa, St Blazey and Luxulyan shares her parishes’ experience of Alpha by Zoom.

“Doing Alpha on Zoom has been really easy, in fact much easier than a traditional Alpha. The last one we did ‘in person’ consisted of 25 people trying to fit in my living room. Now all I have to tidy is the space in front of the computer!”

Jules decided to try the digital Alpha with one particular parishioner in mind. “I knew there was one person, relatively new to church, who had wanted to do an Alpha for a while. The problem was finding a time for them to attend between working and being a single parent.

“When lockdown began I decided that if we were doing it via Zoom I was happy to do it once the child had gone to bed. We didn’t do much planning or advertising, my church warden, Reader and I just asked a few people. In fact we asked people we were sure would usually say ‘no’ but now had very little excuse! It’s not like they were going to be out on a Thursday evening!

“I went to a webinar on how to run Alpha on Zoom led by the Alpha UK team and one of my treasurers offered to pay for a pro-Zoom account. Two weeks after deciding to do it we began (usually it takes weeks of planning).

“There were a few technical issues for people who hadn’t used Zoom before but we had 11 people on the first night. We have lost two along the way, one who went back to work and one whose internet just wasn’t up to using Zoom.

“Running an Alpha course usually takes a lot of effort – doing it via Zoom has been so much easier. We start just after 8pm and we always finish by 9.15pm. We have had people coming along who we would never have managed to get to a traditional Alpha. Walking into a building when you don’t know others there is incredibly scary for most people. A couple of the people are really shy and introverted and I don’t think they would ever had done Alpha if it hadn’t been done this way.

“There are some disadvantages. In anything like Alpha, those conversations as people are walking out the door are invaluable. Often people would ask something they are too embarrassed to ask the group, or will ask for prayer. I do get the odd email after the session asking things or asking for prayer but it’s not quite the same as those chats.”

Despite that, Jules says she would still definitely consider doing Alpha on Zoom even when lockdown is over. “We don’t have a big church team and it is much more manageable. I just hope that when Alpha ends and we can meet physically again, the people who have come along will be able to find their place in our church community.”