By Rebecca Chesin
You may have heard some of the buzz about Sunday Assembly as an “atheist congregation” that’s popping up in cities around the world. While it’s true that Sunday Assembly gatherings are a-theist (without gods), Sunday Assembly does not actively address the question of belief or disbelief. Rather, as one member of the local planning group put it, it is apatheist—religion is simply not present in, nor relevant to, the content of meetings. The focus of Sunday Assembly is neatly summed up by its motto: live better, help often, wonder more..
The guidelines listed in the Sunday Assembly Public Charter include:
• Not-for-profit and volunteer-run
• No doctrine and no deity
• Independent and inclusive
• A celebration of the one life we know we have
Most people attracted to Sunday Assembly would probably describe themselves as somewhere on the godless spectrum: humanist, agnostic, atheist, and so on. Prospective members of the proposed Twin Cities Sunday Assembly, Sunday Assembly MSP, are no exception if the comments at our group’s first planning meeting are any indication.
When I heard that the founders of Sunday Assembly, British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, would be giving a webinar presentation on how to establish local assemblies based on their successful model, I was ready to try an initial planning meeting. Local humanist and atheist Meetup groups kindly posted the event, and it quickly became apparent there was enough interest in this “global movement for wonder and good” to warrant its own Meetup group.
On Saturday, January 11th, twenty-five people met to view the webinar and brainstorm about moving forward. Aided by pizza and an impromptu song, we shared our reasons for interest, considered how Sunday Assembly could complement the wealth of non-religious options already available in the Twin Cities, and discussed various practical details. The strong enthusiasm to advance this project was clear! There was also broad agreement on the importance of creating partnerships and synergy with compatible groups already active in the area while maintaining a distinct brand for Sunday Assembly.
Here are some comments from our members that give a good flavor of what we see ourselves as being about:
• “I would like to be in a group that lets us reclaim celebration, ritual, and ceremony—which existed centuries before the rise of religion.”
• “Awesome. I am so glad I went. The energy in the room was incredible to see. I can’t wait for the next meeting. “
• “My family is looking for a socializing opportunity that focuses on positive relationships without having to suspend our disbelief.”
We also had a potluck social on January 19th. It was the perfect opportunity for us to continue getting to know each other and to start creating a life-celebrating and freethinker-welcoming community. Aided by good company and good food, a very enjoyable afternoon was had by all.
In just two weeks, we’re up to almost seventy members. Our initial meetings and discussions show that we’ve reached critical mass to be able to hold our first Sunday Assembly MSP sometime this year. Some key pieces we need to have in place—or at least fully consider—to move forward in a thoughtful and growth-supporting way include:
• A venue. Whether we find a single place we can meet at regularly or spend some time rotating, we need a pleasant space, available on Sunday, and free or very cheap.
• Speakers and musicians to participate in the services.
• Other volunteers. You can see a list of the eight or so suggested roles, as well as a recommended format for assembly meetings, at www.meetup.com/Sunday-Assembly-MSP/files/.
• Financial and legal organization. Sunday Assembly International has applied for 501(c)(3) status in the US with the goal of extending this status to the various US congregations. Besides non-profit status, we’ll need funds. At this point we have no funds at all; we don’t even have a bank account yet.
Interested? Any level of involvement is welcome. Our next planning meeting will take place February 16th where, with the help of a big whiteboard and some creativity, we’ll start bringing together the pieces we need to make this thing happen.
To learn more, visit the Sunday Assembly International website and drop by the Sunday Assembly MSP Meetup site. If this idea is as exciting to you as it is to us, we’ll gratefully accept your two cents, both figuratively and literally.