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.
“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?