Too much shouting, not enough talking
There's a lot of shouting these days. People of opposing views labelling those on the opposite side of the argument with various pejorative terms on a sliding scale of incivility.
We see this in politics, with Members of Parliament shouting at and insulting each other across the chamber, we see it in the realm of religion, with people on either side of the fence of faith lobbing incendiary insults at the other side, and we see it online, with cowardly and caustic commentary from anonymous avatars.
From a faith perspective, it's really refreshing to me, therefore, when people come together to talk (rather than shout) about God and faith and the deeper issues of life.
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We have found that Alpha, a ten-week course exploring Christianity, provides the perfect environment for such a conversation.
It involves having a meal together, listening to a short talk and then discussing people's views and ideas and questions. The Alpha course is running in 169 countries around the world and has been attended by more than 19 million people.
It was described in the Independent on Sunday as "The world's most popular course in Christianity." In fact, world Alpha course numbers have grown by 29 per cent over the last couple of years.
The Guardian takes up this theme of conversation: "What Alpha offers, and what is attracting thousands of people, is permission, rare in secular culture, to discuss the big questions – life and death and their meaning."
As we have run the course these last few years, we have found that, regardless of what conclusions they reach on Christianity, people who attend do not want the course to finish. They have enjoyed food and friendship and an environment where they can talk and be heard.
There is too much shouting and not enough talking.
There are a number of churches around Plymouth that run the Alpha course, or similar courses, and if you are inclined to investigate faith and Christianity in particular, I would highly recommend that you join the conversation.
Geoff Lee is Pastor of the Plymouth Christian Centre