Atheist Church in London Growing, Attracts 300 at Second Service
The Sunday Assembly, an atheistic church in London, England, is growing, and managed to attract 300 people in its second gathering, 100 more than their first gathering in January.
"I feel sorry for the church next door, waiting for their three people to trickle in," said Nick Julius, one of the members of this new Assembly, which seeks to celebrate community without the "dogma" of religion, according to The Guardian.
Started by British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, the Sunday Assembly meets every month in north London at the site of a former Christian church. The organizers have described the idea behind this atheist church as "a godless congregation that meets … to hear great talks, sing songs and generally celebrate life."
"I came last time and really enjoyed it. It's got all the good things about church without the terrible dogma. I like the sense of community – and who doesn't enjoy a singsong?" Julius added.
The Guardian reported that the service, led by Evans, borrows from religious church services in terms of format. It offers a reading, periods of reflective silence, songs, such as "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen, and of course a collection where people can offer donations to pay for the building's rent.
"We thought it would be a shame not to enjoy the good stuff about religion, like the sense of community, just because of a theological disagreement," Jones explained.
According to their Facebook page, the Sunday Assembly says each "church" gathering will have a different theme. The topic of the first sermon was "Beginnings," in observance of the New Year in January.
"No matter what the subject, the goal of The Sunday Assembly is to solace worries, provoke kindness and inject a bit more whizziness into the everyday," the group says.
The Feb. 3 Assembly theme was "Wonder," featuring a talk by super particle physicist Harry Cliff, PhD. The following meeting in March will focus on "lending a hand" and discuss how the church can help out the community.
Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, noted that the idea of atheist churches is not entirely novel. A wave of them formed in the 19th and early 20th century, but did not stick around for long.
"I think it's an interesting development but it's something that's been tried many times before," Copson said. "What's probably different is that there's a strong entertainment element. It's an entertainment as well as a communal activity. It just happens to be on a Sunday morning."
Photographer Jess Bonham commented to the BBC, "It's a nice excuse to get together and have a bit of a community spirit but without the religion aspect."
The organization's official Twitter page has users commentating on plans of establishing other chapters of the Sunday Assembly in other English cities, like Birmingham, though for now London remains the center of the organization.