Atheist Church?

Is this the world’s first atheist church? Looking everything like a normal Christian church service–apart from the small detail that God was not mentioned–this ‘church’ now holds two services a month with people being turned away at the door. News Limited papers carried this story recently:

Officially named The Sunday Assembly, the church was the brainchild of Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones, two comedians who suspected there might be an appetite for atheist gatherings that borrowed a few aspects of religious worship.

790179-the-sunday-assemblyHeld in an airy, ramshackle former church in north London, their quirky monthly meetings combine music, speeches and moral pondering with large doses of humour.

“There’s so much about Church that has nothing to do with God – it’s about meeting people, it’s about thinking about improving your life,” said Jones, a gregarious 32-year-old with a bushy beard and a laugh like a thunderclap.

 The Sunday Assembly’s central tenets are to “help often, live better and wonder more” – themes that would not be out of keeping with the teachings of any major world religion.

At a recent Sunday service, which had a volunteering theme, songs included Help by the Beatles and Holding Out For A Hero by Bonnie Tyler.

The “sermon” was given by the founder of an education charity, while in a section called Pippa Is Trying Her Best, Evans had the congregation in stitches as she reported on her attempts at voluntary work.

The service ended with big cheers and – this is Britain, after all – shouts of “Who would like a cup of tea?”

I don’t know about you, but I would love to attend such a church. Sure, they don’t talk about God, and they don’t claim any particular set of beliefs except a conviction that they can and should work to make their world a better place. As the journalist seems to ask, ‘Isn’t this what church is supposed to be about anyway?’

Pete Rollins, in his book, The Orthodox Heretic, tells a story about a man who lost his faith but, in this loss, found his sense of compassion and justice awakened and, in the end, Rollins poses the seemingly antithetical question: Is it better to say you believe in God and not do what God asks, or to deny the faith yet live a life congruent with God’s love and grace?

In this I seem to hear the echo of Jesus, as he came to the conclusion of the story about the good Samaritan: ‘Go and do likewise.’

Perhaps Christianity–perhaps we--are taking so seriously our beliefs, structures, and services, and need to, in a sense, forget our faith and just do good.

Maybe singing Help on Sunday morning would be a good start.

Anyone with me?


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