Last Sunday we had a special Family Sunday Assembly, and I told a story about my mother. I felt quite guilty about it because it meant having to speak about childhood bereavement to a front row of five year old girls in princess outfits (I think I just lost any children’s party bookings).
But it was important to me because so much of what I do in life comes from one place: my mother’s death when I was a child. My mother’s death was unbearably sad but somehow, over time, that sadness fused with the knowledge of my own inevitable death and grew into a shining burning soaring love of life.
It was this love of life, this awareness of the blessing of being born, that forced me to make the move that terrified me and quit my job to became a stand up comedian.
It was the transformational awareness that all I get is this one life (and it won’t last very long) that gives me the determination to fix the character bumps that hold me back (it is very much an ongoing project).
It is this unquenchable furnace inside me, this transcendental power plant within, that made pretty much all my stand up shows a celebration of life. It was all of these things that led me, with Pippa Evans, to start Sunday Assembly.
Preparing for the family service had brought up another memory of me and my mother. I remembered aged 8 going to Sunday School and helping her out in the creche. I remember drawing Jacob sleeping on the rock, dreaming of his ladder. I remember feeling so proud that I was helping her. Me. Helping her. Her the badass lawyer with incredible shoulder padded suits and great 80s hair. Yep. I was helping her.
Seeing all those kids in Conway Hall was a glimpse to the future, like that memory was a glimpse of the past. The kids were all in the hall this time but we’re working with the venue to see if we can get a separate room for an outside creche or a Sunday School. And then maybe we can organise a sports team. And after that maybe we’ll have summer camps. And then maybe they’ll have friends for life. And. And. And. Glimpse. Glimpse. Glimpse.
These green shoots are emerging across Sunday Assembly London. I walked into the pub after the last service and saw 40 people sitting having lunch together. My heart filled with joy. Something wonderful has happened. Together we have created a space where people can connect in London, of all places! London the city that often feels like a rejection of connection. It is amazing and yet….it is still only a glimpse. How well do these people know each other? Who feels comfortable to ring who when they’ve got an issue? Who will visit who when they’re sick? Glimpse. Glimpse. Glimpse.
These glimpses are repeated across the world. Canberra regularly have over 100 people getting together and a brilliant community programme. In Apeldoorn a small town in the Dutch Bible Belt (I didn’t know there was a Dutch Bible Belt either) 82 people are coming together to celebrate life. In Nashville (in the familiar Bible Belt) where Sunday Assembly is an island of inclusive secular community in a sea of exclusionary congregations. Glimpse. Glimpse. Glimpse.
Taken together all of these glimpses add up to a startling and spine tingling vision of the future. That’s why in 2015 we want to accelerate our work. We want to keep on doing what we have done and then do more. We have had requests for Sunday Assembly chapters in over 1000 towns in the US, in over 300 towns in the UK, and we are still getting 10 requests for new chapters a day.
We want to build a future where one day, in Sacramento, or Pittsburgh, or Manchester, or London, or Sydney, or Frankfurt, an 8 year old boy will sit with his mother as she teaches in a creche about the importance of being nice to other people. And he will draw a picture to illustrate a point. And he will feel proud. And his mother will feel happy.
The only way we’re going to do that is with your help. We want to find out what Sunday Assembly Awe-ganisers and Activists are doing at a local level that brings us closer to the world where everyone has a community so that we can share this best practice with the world. And we want to celebrate these people, we want to show them off to the world.
Here’s how we’ll do it: Please tell us a story about a Sunday Assembly organiser, volunteer or participant who really did something that impressed you, and made you think “If everyone in the world did that then no one will be denied their right to community”.
The great difference between the past and the future, is that we can change the future. No matter how many glimpses I get of my mother, I won’t be able to have her back. But we, we who are alive, can take these glimpses of our future and stitch them together into a better, fairer world for all. We can stitch our glimpses into a vision and work to make that vision a reality and we as individuals, as a community, as a community of communities, will have built the future.