A new beginning

When I wrote of “getting involved” at the end of my previous post on the Sunday Assembly, little did I know that I – along with my other half – would be putting together the band! Oh, and playing in it too, even though I haven’t played music in public for years!

Sunday Assembly is now a global movement, a network of ‘secular churches’, and the Edinburgh branch had our launch this week with Sanderson and Pippa, as part of their 40-day tour of new Assembly launches. (One of the other organisers has put some photos online here.) With a lot of work done by a little group of organisers, we all got to know each other a bit, and we had an evening we could be proud of.

There has been some press coverage, and the comments have been really interesting. Perhaps it’s partly the nature of Internet comments threads, but opinions among the non-religious seem to be really polarised. Some people love the idea, while others are actually affronted by the very concept – the analogy of “pretend meat for vegetarians” has come up more than once, with the implication that there is a kind of hypocrisy involved: if you like religion that much, you should just be religious!

Some people have said that they don’t think a community can work when it is not based around some common belief, or purpose, or activity, or whatever. I guess time will tell – the London one seems to be going strong, but it’s still only in its first year. I guess there is more potential for fragmentation or conflict when there isn’t a defining creed or official stance on various things. There has already been a split in the New York one, with a more atheism-centred and religion-bashing group having to go off and start their own thing independently. Then again, perhaps this just shows that the Sunday Assembly is already pretty clear on what it is and what it isn’t.

I don’t think it’s harder to understand or explain to people than any of the myriad varieties of church out there. (And churches are not immune to inner conflict, either!) It’s just that everyone knows what a church is, even if they’re not familiar with a particular one. When I was a Christian, I could mention “church” and I don’t think it bothered me whether people knew exactly what kind of church I went to. With this, I get a bit nervous when I don’t have the opportunity to give a full explanation!

But I’m definitely excited and proud to be a part of this. Church, if you set aside the religious element, is about congregating with others to take a bit of time out from busy lives and reflect on life a bit; to be uplifted together; to reach out and do some good to others. There are many people who want all these things, but are just turned off by the God part. This is for them (but not exclusively! ;) )

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5 Responses to A new beginning

  1. Marahm says:

    .
    I’m glad you’ve found a community with which to celebrate the universal, non-material qualities of human life. You’ve bravely put forth the objections to Sunday Assembly that are offered by those at opposite ends of the religious pole.

    I tend to agree with them. However, no sooner do I say that than I remind myself of the necessity for humans to come together to honor the human condition and support one another in individual efforts to make the best of it.

    Perhaps the Sunday Assembly as well as the entire variety of religious congregation serves this need, and we are short-sighted in offering any objection to any of them. When one of them no longer serves the need of the individual, she/he moves on, and does not deserve judgment for doing so.

    So what is religion, and who is God, if such concepts are even more elastic than we’ve already made them? Perhaps they are as subject to evolution as is any other quality that flows through the course of human history.

    • Sarah says:

      I am excited, but intent on keeping an open mind as well. I’m not wedded to the idea that this venture will “work out”, either for myself or generally. But I do believe that there is value in coming together as part of a community and giving of oneself to it, in terms of contributing ideas and creativity to the services, offering friendship, generosity, nurturing the good side of our human nature; so perhaps there’s an element of faith – the need to invest oneself without knowing for sure how it will pan out. I’m encouraged so far, though. One of the organisers suffered a bereavement right before the service and I was amazed at the inspiring words that came forth from that person and the compassion reflected back. I think community is always challenging, because people are difficult. But I’m not sure religious convictions have much to do with it, except that we need our community to be a place where we can be ourselves (beliefs and doubts and all) and feel comfortable. This has always been hard for me to find.

  2. susanne430 says:

    good to read you found such a fulfilling place!

  3. Pingback: “In Good We Trust” | The Big Blog of All the Shit I Know

  4. got you bookmarked to check out new things you post…|

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