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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sunday Assembly: A Look At Organized Non-Religion

Sixteen percent of people around the world say they have no religious affiliation. But even those who aren’t connected to a religion may still be looking for community.

That’s where the Sunday Assembly comes in.

In London earlier this year, stand-up comedians Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones founded the godless congregation that they say has many of the elements of church, but without religion.

Since then, the Sunday Assembly has expanded to 35 locations, including some in the U.S. Their motto is “live better, help often, wonder more.”

Evans and Jones join Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson from London to discuss the assembly they created.

Interview Highlights

Pippa Evans on why she wanted to start Sunday Assembly

“I come from a church background and I really loved going to church. Then, when I stopped believing in God, when I was about 17, I felt like I couldn’t go to church anymore because it felt a bit hypocritical. But the thing I really missed was church, not God. And so I always wondered – is it possible to have all the wonderful things that church does, like create community and help others and encourage thinking about the world, yourself and improvement, but without the God bit. And then fast forward to a car journey to a show that Sanderson and I were doing together, and we started talking in the car … and we ended up both saying, ‘I always thought about starting a church without the God bit.’ And then we decided we should do it together. And that is how Sunday Assembly was born.”

Pippa Evans on who attends Sunday Assembly

“The Sunday Assembly ran in Brighton is ran by a Christian. So, there are lots of people who come. And that really is the strength about Sunday Assembly, is that it’s radically inclusive. So people can come who are not quite decided about whether they believe in God or maybe they do believe in God, but they are not getting – they have not found the right church for them or whatever. So it’s more about living your life than it is about whether you believe or don’t believe.”

Sanderson Jones on the growth of Sunday Assembly

“There’s a ton in the U.S. We went on a road show to go on and sort of launch the first one and sort of give a bit of an example about how it’s done. So we went to New York, Boston, Washington D.C., and Nashville – that was a hoot! The band was so good, unsurprisingly. Then there’s quite a few in California – they have taken it up quite nicely with San Diego. And even in the Deep South there are some in Georgia and Texas. So it’s really exciting to see that people just come forward. There’s a basic human need to get together as a community. And this seems to be a way in which lots of people like doing it.”

Sanderson Jones on their mission

“We often say that we’re not going to tell you how to live, but we’re going to help you do whatever you want to do as well as you can. We still have a very strong sense of purpose and mission. You know the ‘live better, help often, wonder more,’ corresponds nicely to self-service and spirit. We’ve got an awesome mission, which is to try and help everyone live this one life as fully as possible, and a vision, which is to try to help every town, city or village that wants to have a Sunday Assembly to have one.”

Guests


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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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