Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), recently described as 'one of the most influential evangelical and charismatic congregations in Europe', has surprised observers by announcing the launch of a second course to run alongside its ground-breaking Alpha course.
Launched last week in fashionable Knightsbridge at a supper for 500 people, the course which attracted most attention was not the pasta, washed down with a crisp Chardonnay, but HTB's new teaching course, named Beta, which aims to reach an almost untouched group of the unchurched.
The vicar of HTB and compere of the supper, Sandy Millar, explained: "Alpha has brought in all sorts of folk from the A, B and C1 levels of society. But we don't want to stop there. We want to reach right down to the Ds and Es, too, to people like my postman. And that's just what Beta will do."
|COCKNEYS FOR CHRIST: All too aware of the high socio-demographic breakdown of most Alpha course attendees, messrs. Gumbel, Millar and Chartres (see right) got together recently to launch Beta, a carefully-targetted introduction to Christianity for 'our friends in less prosperous areas'. Speaking later at a greyhound track in Harringey, Gumbel said: 'They're a super bunch of chaps, the working class. All those Lee's and Dean's have got something very special to offer to the church.'||
Nicky Gumbel, a former HTB curate who now travels the globe as roving ambassador for Alpha, demonstrated the new 'below stairs' approach by spelling out exactly what 'Beta' stands for.
"B is for Bring a mate," he said, "because we want to encourage Christians to spread the good news." He continued: "E is for Eastenders, because we are using London's East End to test out this new approach. T is for TV dinners, washed down with a cup of strong tea, because eating and drinking together gets people talking. And A is for Ask anything, with no questions about faith barred."
In fact, conscious of Alpha's middle-class image, Millar has felt it necessary to create an entirely different food menu for Beta. "Leave me alone in a kitchen and I'll usually end up pasta baking, but if pie 'n' mash will bring more into the kingdom, so be it," said Millar.
HTB reports that the new course is being wholeheartedly endorsed by the Bishop of London, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Alex Healy, the vicar of Albert Square in the BBC's Eastenders. Even Jonathan Aitken, a former Alpha course attendee, has taken time out to volunteer his backing for Beta.
"With this kind of support," quipped Millar, "we're going to have to rename HTB as 'Hard to Beta'!"
Millar is delighted that Samantha Fox, a former Alpha course devotee and herself "an E, probably a double E actually", aims to play a prominent role in the promotion of Beta. She appears on page three of the booklet next to a quotation from the Song of Solomon. With her considerable assets behind this new evangelistic thrust, Beta is certain to go where no Christian campaign has ever gone before.
For further information about Alpha and Beta, phone HTB on 0171 581 8255, fax 0181 584 8536, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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