Sunday Assembly Accreditation Process

This is the last of the key documents that we are creating on how to start your own Assembly. Remember there’s the Charter, the Road Map and this is the Accreditation Process.

This accreditation will allow us to give our name, branding and space on our website to the new Assemblies, while ensuring that there is a high quality of services, and no unacceptable behaviour (homophobia, Islamophobia, and the like (hydrophobia is permitted in the legally rabid)).

This has been the hardest thing we’ve done yet. It is SO tough to balance the maximum freedom, with the minimum possible checks. We’ve moved from our first model of a license agreement which had quite specific format (which we did with the best of intentions), to one that is more free.

The idea is to move away from rules and regulations to recommendations and resources. And the reason we recommend the format that we use? Because it has been tried and tested and works.

Picasso said ‘You should learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist’: that generally means knowing what you are doing before coming up with a whole new variant. That’s why we’d heartily advise starting with the established order of service, before coming up with a new one. In time, we envisage a whole network learning from each other making suggestions and coming up with ideas that everyone can use.

PicassoWhile we are moving towards recommendations, it is worth highlighting one of our key rule rules, this is to do with rotating the role of the MC, and making sure that no one figure dominates the start up Assembly. One of the first questions Pippa and I are asked when we speak about helping others start Assemblies, is “But what if they don’t have a performer there to lead it?”.

Well, for starters, we think that having great songs, a fantastic talk, interesting readings, a moment of quiet reflection and tea and cake at the end, is 90% of the service. More importantly, it is enough to start a community. An engaging MC (who is not a professional performer) can introduce things and make the event go with a swing.

The other side of that worry is “What if it is taken over by someone with their own agenda?”. That is a big worry of our’s, so we think that making sure that no one person speaks at more than 50% of the Assemblies is a great way of nullifying that risk. It is something I always bring up when explaining how we’re growing Sunday Assembly, and people seem instantly onboard with this as a good safety measure.

Lastly, it is worth remembering that the Sunday service is merely the first step along a path. The final destination is to use this to build a vibrant, supportive, active community. Thus the Assembly is the thin end of the wedge, (the mininum viable product in start up terms) that will lead to happy people helping each other and the surrounding community. If you don’t know how to do that, don’t worry, we’ll also give you as many tips as possible there.

After a long introduction, here goes:

Sunday Assembly Everywhere Accreditation Process Draft

The purpose of this document is to set out the items pertinent to the forthcoming accreditation process for Sunday Assembly Everywhere.

We want to help as many communities as want Sunday Assemblies to set them up in a sustainable and fun way, to work together in that process, and to help maintain high standards for the services and other activities.  The process can work as follows.

1.  The Sunday Assembly Charter

The essence of Sunday Assembly is laid down in the Charter.  This gives the framework within which we all operate.  Take a look and read it carefully.  Is this the kind of thing you want to do?  If it is, then welcome to the process, which is all about helping you and your group to get to the point of successfully running Sunday Assemblies under your own steam.

2.  Starting off

At this stage you may be one of the pilot assemblies or you may be participating in the 40 Dates initiative.  If the former, you may well already be running Assemblies.  If the latter, you will be preparing for Sanderson or Pippa to come and run an initial assembly with you.

Either way, gathering a team is key.  In general, the more people you can engage, the better (the road map has got more info).  You’ll start off running assemblies with our support and guidance, to gain experience and confidence.  Once you’re confident about how it all works, how the get the right balance of entertainment and inspiration, then you’ll be accredited to continue to run assemblies in your town by Better Often More (‘BOM’, the core Sunday Assembly charity/body – the name will change soon as we continue the process of becoming a charity), and to start to help others get involved.  We think that successfully running three or four assemblies should be sufficient for everyone to have the confidence to proceed.

We’re calling the initial part of the process ‘Stage 1’, where you’re learning and gaining experience.  After accreditation, you’ll be a full member of Sunday Assembly Everywhere, with freedom to develop things in your own way within the Charter framework.  You’ll be able to use the Sunday Assembly logos and branding, the good name of the SA and participate in network events with other Sunday Assemblies, and participate in discussions about how the SA movement develops and grows.  If you operate outside the Charter, we will support you in adjusting and improving.  In the event of persistent operating outside the Charter, we reserve the right to withdraw the accreditation in accordance with our Complaints Procedure (see below).

3.  Key elements of the agreement.

What BOM will do to support you

  • Make you part of an expanding global network that will draw people to your Assembly.

  • Provide logos and branding materials, and a bespoke copy of the Charter for you to display.

  • Provide a space on the SA website for your assembly, giving you access to our online community.

  • Help you with initial press releases and communications

  • Provide training and learning opportunities to both attend Sunday Assemblies and courses/webinars to share what we’ve learned do far

  • Provide video material to help you introduce the Sunday Assembly concept

  • Support and assist you in setting up an appropriate governance structure, including advice on tax-efficient financial operations

  • Join you up with the online Sunday Assembly Everywhere Hosts Network, where you can access online resources and communicate with other SAEs around the world

  • Share ideas for songs, formats, themes, speakers, community action and other ingredients

  • Provide a reporting system to allow everyone to keep track of how the SA movement is spreading around the world

  • Provide a forum for all accredited SAE organisations to discuss key developments, including any changes to the Charter

  • Provide a process for resolving complaints or Charter infringements, with right of appeal for all parties.

What you agree to do

  • Call your enterprise Sunday Assembly XYZ (where XYZ is agreed with BOM as the name of your town/city/region)

  • Abide by and work within the Sunday Assembly Charter

  • Use the logo and other materials within the branding guidelines

  • Run your organisation as a properly constituted body (an unincorporated association, incorporated body, CIC, charity. 501(c)3 or whichever works best) with proper financial probity and independence, and appropriate public liability insurance

  • Keep your area of the website, and your Facebook and Twitter pages, up to date with information about services, meetings etc

  • Engage with the Sunday Assembly Everywhere Hosts Network, and keep us all abreast of your progress using the reporting systems

  • Engage with our peer review process to build quality and impact of services and other work

  • Video/audio record your services for review and learning (this does not have to be of broadcast quality, it is for training purposes only)

  • Work within the media and event guidelines (both under development)– if you wish to depart from these please do it in consultation with us

  • Make clear that you are speaking for your own organisation, and not for the global Sunday Assembly movement (unless we’ve agreed something different)

  • Use the complaints procedure to resolve any complaint about your assembly

  • Not do anything to bring the Sunday Assembly movement into disrepute (please).

In Stage 1 (the ‘set-up’ phase), we ask that you:

  • Develop your service plans based on our existing tried-and-tested formats and themes given in Appendix 2.  If you want to do anything significantly different to start with, develop your plans in discussion with us.

  • Base your initial press releases on the provided boiler-plate materials provided, and seek guidance from our regional press advisers if you want to do anything very different

  • Share around the roles of host, address-giver etc so that no one voice dominates your services.  In particular, no one individual may host/MC more than 50% of the services.

  • Engage with other network members and learn fast from all the experience that’s being gathered about running successful Sunday Assemblies

We will give you an accreditation when all parties are confident that you have the basics down and have good plans to develop your Sunday Assembly.  This will take at least six services run by you, following any initial service with Sanderson or Pippa.  Ideally this will be done by a peer review visit. In the early stages, we may have to rely on video, other reports and feedback.

As an accredited Sunday Assembly, we ask that you

  • Continue to work within the Charter (obviously)

  • Choose great themes and speakers for your services that connect with our motto ‘Live better, help often, wonder more’

  • Continue to share around the roles of host, address-giver etc so that no one voice dominates your services.  No one individual may host/MC more than 50% of the services (this is one of the few rule rules we have).  There may be a further stage in the future where a fully trained and accredited SA host could take charge – but that’s for the future

  • Develop community and volunteer work within your locality

  • Share your successes, developments and learning with the rest of the SAE network

  • Visit neighbouring SA’s to learn, share and build collaboration

  • Get involved with helping other groups in your area start their own SA’s

  • Look after your own local press releases and communications (though your regional press officer is very much here to help), and discuss any wider-impact communications you might want to do with your press officer in advance.

Complaints procedure

There will be a ‘complaints procedure’ to investigate instances of Assemblies stepping outside the charter or bringing the SA movement into disrepute, which could lead to a range of outcomes from advice to the Assembly.  There will also be an appeals procedure. All this will be detailed in the legal documentation.  In the first instance, of course, any complaint by a congregation member should be dealt with swiftly by the Assembly in question.

Winding up

Should a Stage 1 (not-yet-accredited) Sunday Assembly wish to wind up their operations, all social media, press links and contact databases will revert to BOM to assist any potential future start-ups in that area.

Should an accredited Sunday Assembly wish to wind up their operations and cease any kind of functioning, a similar process will apply.

Should an accredited Sunday Assembly wish to leave the SA network and go independent, the SA will be obliged to rename themselves and make clear public statements about the situation to ensure no confusion of identity with the remaining SA network.

This document sets out what we are seeking to achieve with the accreditation process. There will inevitably be a longer legal agreement (like the iTunes terms and conditions) drawn up to be signed by all parties at both the start of Stage 1 and at the time of accreditation, which will lay out in full detail precisely how it all works.

Appendix 2:  Stage I Format

Each Assembly should be as interesting for as many people as possible; this means a good broad theme and a range of topics delivered by some knowledgeable and engaging speakers/performers. Each service will have a theme, connecting broadly to the core motto of live better, help often and wonder more.

Wherever possible, your service should be about one hour in length.  It should not be held more than once in any calendar month.  Each service will start from a format including:

  • Welcome from the Host/MC

  • Three or four songs, spread through the service.  The songs should be positive, non-explicit, non-offensive, widely known and easy to sing.  (An ever-expanding list is growing in the SAE Hosts Network.)

  • A reading (as with the songs, whack us your questions if you have any)

  • An outside speaker (or possibly from within the congregation) doing the ‘Talk’. They should inform, inspire and provide practical tips for the audience

  • A congregation member speaking (‘X is doing their best’) – a personal story that relates to the theme of the assembly

  • A moment of silent reflection

  • A period of saying hello and connecting with others during the service

  • An address focusing on the theme of the service.

There will be tea and cake (or some appropriate refreshments and social time) after the service.

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So, what do you think? Please give us your feedback, and we’ll provide the media, branding and code of conduct guidelines ASAP. Also, expect more resources coming on which songs work well, good readings, lists of good speakers and more more MORE.