Often self-exploration is considered to be something associated with religion or spirituality. But what if you want to consider life a little more deeply without being committed to a deity? In search of this, M. Menckens went to the Sunday Assembly.
Sunday Assembly was started a little over three years ago by stand-up comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans. The general concept is a “church without a deity”; no religious belief is required to enjoy the community benefits it has to offer. With the tagline ‘Live Better, Help Often and Wonder More’, a high bar has been self-set by this pseudo-religious meet-up. However, the idea has clearly been a hit. Originally based in London, there are now over 70 local assemblies around the world including New York and Christchurch.
Throwing away my cynical predisposition for just five minutes (it will be hard), the 75-minute event was full of laughter, songs (including Don’t stop me now by Queen…don’t judge me but I bellowed out the entire tune) and warm stories. One story that stood out was given by an elderly gentlemen who had lost his wife. He had been attending Sunday Assembly since its inception and had relied very heavily on the support network he had built at the gathering - whether that be looking for someone to talk to, or someone to help with the shopping. This is truly a testament to people and their ability to come together in times of need.
Putting my cynical hat back on, it was interesting to see how quickly people idealise characters and detract away from the original concept. Discussions with members of Sunday Assembly quickly turned into ‘isn’t Sanderson great?’ which to me, whilst he is a fantastically enthusiastic and empassioned speaker, detracted away from its humanist-like roots. The focus should be on celebrating life and all its offering.
The most important element of Sunday Assembly is that it feels real; it is not the gimmick that some make it out to be and the people I met were genuinely interesting and happy to be there. The resounding success of the idea highlights a hole we currently have in society; people are desperate for more meaning in their everyday lives. I would encourage all of you to start talking more…what do we hope to achieve? What do we fear? Do we believe in a God? If not, why not? These are all important questions that are far too often overshadowed by what type of sweetcorn to buy from the supermarket and whether we should get the 16GB or 32GB iPhone 6.
Author: M. Menckens