Although COVID-19 has presented many challenges for all of us, it has also opened up some new possibilities. All Saints Dallas (ASD) Vicar David+ Larlee, with his wife, Rachel, recently seized just such an opportunity. They hosted an online Alpha Marriage Course. Sixty couples participated, including 30 from ASD, 10 from The Gathering in San Antonio and others with no connection to a church. Some had been married only a few years, others more than 30.
The course covered seven topics:
- Strengthening Connection
- The Art of Communication
- Resolving Conflict
- The Power of Forgiveness
- The Impact of Family
- Good Sex
- Love in Action
According to Larlee, the platform was Zoom, but all participants were encouraged to be anonymous by turning off their cameras and microphones. The focus was not on the group, but on the couples themselves. They would watch short video segments of presentations by global Alpha leaders Nicky and Sila Lee. Then couples had a designated amount of time between segments to discuss the material.
Couples were encouraged to consider each session as a “date night,” and set a table with candlelight to enhance the sense of intimacy. “The program then gave them a framework to talk about the most challenging parts of marriage,” says Larlee.
Participants appreciated the format: “It was great to discuss our relationship in a low-key emotional environment. Having these conversations when we are not emotionally activated was such a great way to enhance our relationship. We loved the chance to unplug weekly and connect on a deeper relational level.”
ASD and the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) wanted to pilot this program to see how it could both minister to couples and to serve the unchurched. “Marriages are the building blocks of communities,” explained Larlee. Strong marriages can provide a strong foundation for society, so having a course to recommend to others gives AMiA churches a proven tool for ministry.
Although the program is presented as a marriage course from a Christian perspective, unlike Alpha, it is not intentionally evangelistic. “The course is a soft entry point for those who aren’t involved in church,” Larlee commented. It is hoped that those who find it helpful will consider participating in Alpha programs.
“By far the most powerful session is the one on forgiveness,” states Larlee. According to one participant, “The evening on forgiveness was the most powerful for us—we suddenly both realized that despite being married for 15 years we for some time had gotten out of the habit of forgiving each other. The evening on forgiveness was hard and painful, but now that we have been working through this we feel like newlyweds again.”
Lead Bishop +Philip Jones would like to see the Alpha Marriage Course and Pre-marriage Course become standard tools that AMiA churches can utilize to strengthen their congregations and minister to their communities. “We hope to do more of these,” said Larlee. “It has tremendous potential.”
This comment from a participant confirms Larlee’s thoughts: “After the first week, I thought it was too late for our marriage. Our marriage had become more about our children and their lives than anything else. We kept attending because of our friends on the course, and I can’t quite believe what has happened. In short, our marriage has been saved. We have a long road ahead, but we have rediscovered a love for each other. And for the first time in a long time we are laughing together again.”