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! 😉 )