Monday, October 27, 2008

Alpha course

In today's class, we were talking about re-branding. Our professor Kerry presented some cases - the New Coke, political parties...but then she brought up the re-branding of religion, which is something I never really thought about. The two reasons to re-brand an image and/or product are when the brand has changed (which does not really apply in this case) or when the brand image requires a complete overhaul - which I think does apply. I never really thought of religion as a "brand", but now that it has been pointed out, it makes sense.

One of the re-branding tools that the church has used is something called the Alpha Course. The Alpha Course is a program offered to educate people on the basics of the Christian faith (although at first glance, one is led to believe that it is more of a philosophical discussion on the "Meaning of Life" than a lesson in Christian doctrine). It promotes that these discussions take place in a "relaxed, friendly setting" and that people of all faiths, backgrounds and viewpoints are welcome to participate.

The Alpha Course was founded by Charles Marnham, a clergyman at Holy Trinity Brompton, London, a Church of England parish in London in 1977. It was a program originally designed for members of the church. Alpha was taken over in 1990 by Nicky Gumbel and it was at that time that they realized the evengelical opportunities and it was then used to educate non-churchgoers in the fundamentals of Christianity. While it was started by The Church of England (an Anglican Church), Alpha has now spread to over 164 countries in a variety of denominations - including the Roman Catholic Church.

Alpha is organized in a series of ten weekly discussions - each session begins with some sort of refreshment, and then moves on to a short "talk" about some aspect of the Christian faith, be it Jesus, God or resisting evil. About halfway through the course, there is a day or weekend "Holy Spirit Retreat", in which the discussion focuses on who the Holy Spirit is, what the Holy Spirit does, and how you can welcome the Holy Spirit into your life.

So, I have tried really hard to explain the re-branding of the church to include people like me without being critical, without being judgemental, keeping an open mind. It has taken me a long time to write this, as I keep looking back and realizing that I am allowing personal opinion to infiltrate this blog. I must admit, I am a little curious - not so much about the content of Alpha, I have, after all, heard it all before - but whether or not we non-Christians would in fact be welcome at these meetings as their website says. I am also curious as to whether their "Convert in Ten-Weeks or Less" method is actually working.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Microsoft offers reward for missing boy

I read a story today, and I'm not sure if this is an example of corporate social responsibility or cause-related marketing...Brandon Crisp, a 15-year-old boy from Barrie, ON disappeared after being told that he was no longer allowed to play his Microsoft Xbox game system that his parents felt he was addicted to. He hasn't been seen since leaving his home twelve days ago. Yesterday, the boy's father "appealed to 'the highest levels of Microsoft' " for assistance in finding his son.

Microsoft, who has been cooperating fully with the investigation, went one step further than bypassing the company's privacy policy and doubled the reward money originally offered for information on Brandon's whereabouts to $50,000. I heard a lot of criticism of Microsoft for doing this - mainly because some people were personally offended that they don't offer a reward for all missing children. But the fact of the matter is that their product, at least in the minds of Brandon Crisp's parents, caused the fight which led to his disappearance. So, at first I was wondering what it was a better example of, but then I realized that none of that really matters. What matters most is that Brandon is found and comes home, safe and sound.

**Update Nov 5, 2008** Hunters in the Barrie area came across the body of a teenage boy today - police have not released anything official, but they have stated that the clothes the boy was in match those that Brandon was wearing, and was close to the place where Brandon was last seen. No details have been released concerning the cause of death, but in my opinion, none of that matters right now. My thoughts are going out to Brandon's family and friends - may they find that strength in each other to get through this horribly tragic event.
**Update Nov 7, 2008** An autopsy was conducted today and the body is, in fact, that of Brandon Crisp. He displayed injuries that were indicative of a fall from a tree. Funeral services will take place in Barrie on Friday, November 14th.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My friendly, neighborhood recording

So, yesterday I got a phone call from my Liberal candidate - I already know how I am intending to vote - but this particular call got me to thinking...does such a thing ACTUALLY make a difference in how the people are going to vote? Like, I'm intending to vote Green, but suddenly, I get a phone call from Ken Cole, and suddenly I become a Liberal?

But, the thing is, it wasn't even a REAL phone call - a standard recording was all that I warranted from Ken Cole, not even a real person on the line. I would have been happy with a representative of the Ken Cole campaign. Instead, all I got was an auto-dialer - which of course, made me think of Homer's AT-5000. At least the other candidate that called me at home used a real person (although I didn't understand a word this representative said - but at least he was a person and not a machine).

In my opinion, that's just bad public relations - showing your constituents that they are not even worthy of actual human contact. The purpose of this blog is NOT to discuss politics, so I will just leave it at that, but seriously...I just hung up. I would never be that rude, hanging up on an actual person - I'd at least listen to what they had to say.