You want to come along a Sunday Assembly in your town. This is amazing news! But of course you have some questions. We all have questions. Like what to call a group of pugs? Answer: a gumble!
About Sunday Assembly
- What is Sunday Assembly?
- How did Sunday Assembly start?
- What happens at a Sunday Assembly?
- Who are Sanderson and Pippa?
- Why do you use the phrase Atheist Church?
- Is Sunday Assembly exclusively for atheists?
- Is Sunday Assembly right for me?
- Would we be allowed to be anti-theist?
- Can we use Sunday Assembly as a vehicle for discussing or presenting atheist/humanist/godless philosophy?
- Can it be a campaigning group?
- What happened in New York?
Organizing a Sunday Assembly
- How do I organize my team?
- What are useful tools for facilitating meetings between organisers and keeping each other informed?
- How do I set up/name my Sunday Assembly Facebook group?
- Can I use Sunday Assembly logos for flyers/ Facebook groups/ meetup.com?
- Can we talk to each other on the Sunday Assembly Forum?
- No one’s replying to my emails – what do I do?
- What is the Sunday Assembly Charter?
- When will we get a website of our own?
- Who do I email if I have a problem?
- Are there any helpful websites while we are starting up?
- What kind of support are you offering?
- How do we fund this?
About the Sunday Assembly Service
- I am not a comedian, will it be any good?
- How long is a Sunday Assembly?
- Where are there Sunday Assemblies?
- How closely do we have to follow your Assembly format/style?
- What tools are there for helping us stay in touch/organise meetings/bring new joiners on board?
What is Sunday Assembly?
Sunday Assembly is a non-religious community that meet regularly to celebrate life. Our motto is “Live better, help often and wonder more” and our mission is to help everyone reach their full potential in this one life we know we have.
How did Sunday Assembly start?
Two comedians, Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones were on their way to a gig in a car (VW Polo, if you like detail) when they started talking about the idea of a church without God. Pippa had been a Christian and found, when she stopped believing, she missed church (community, volunteering, music) rather than God and Sanderson had noticed the joy at Christmas created by carol concerts and wondered if it was possible to harness all those good bits to celebrate the awesome fact that we are alive.
And so they decided if they had both thought of it, probably more people had thought of it, so they should just get on and do it. In Jan 2013 they did just that. Over 200 people turned up to the first event and since then and more turn up every fortnight in London. They haven’t looked back, with 68 Assemblies across the globe to date.
What happens at a Sunday Assembly?
A Sunday Assembly service consists of songs (pop songs mainly) sung by the congregation, a reading (usually a poet), an interesting talk (that fits into live better, help often or wonder more), a moment of reflection and an address, which sums up the day and hopefully gives a take home message. Afterwards we have tea and cake (well, in Britain anyway!) to encourage people to stay and mingle with one another.
Outside of the event we organise small groups (Smoups), and other social activities such as book clubs and choir, peer-to-peer support and local volunteering.
Who are Sanderson and Pippa?
Sanderson and Pippa are the two founders of Sunday Assembly. They are comedians (although Sanderson now works on Sunday Assembly full time. Pippa still needs her regular dose of applause from strangers) who discussed the idea on the way to a gig.
Why do you use the phrase Atheist Church?
The phrase “atheist church” was something we used when starting out. It seemed like a good shorthand phrase to explain what it is (and definitely helped us get press attention which has been vital in getting Sunday Assembly off the ground). However, we focus not on Atheism but on celebrating life.
Is Sunday Assembly exclusively for atheists?
Absolutely not. We say in the Charter that we don’t do supernatural but we won’t tell you you’re wrong if you do. One of the unique things about Sunday Assembly is that it is radically inclusive – allowing us to celebrate life together, regardless of what we believe in.
Is Sunday Assembly right for me?
Only you can answer this question. Are you keen to celebrate life? Do you enjoy meeting new people? Do you wish there was a community of like-minded people meeting simply to share the pleasure of being alive? Then yes!
Are you keen to find a way to spread your theory on why religion is evil? Want to tell the world why you are right about everything and everyone else is wrong? Then probably, Sunday Assembly is not for you.
Would we be allowed to be anti-theist?
There are so many exciting things about life. Stars, chocolate cake, love, dreams, tunnels, Greek mythology etc. Sunday Assembly is about finding these things that we can all share. Basically, we prefer to talk about the things that we do believe in, rather than the things we don’t, and by being anti-theist you exclude a lot of potential attendees who don’t identify as atheists. Lots of explicitly atheist events exist. This is the event that your religious grandma should come to and see that atheism isn’t just about not believing in God (and they certainly don’t eat babies!).
Can we use Sunday Assembly as a vehicle for discussing or presenting atheist/humanist/godless philosophy?
Ask yourself why you want to do that. Is it something you could do somewhere else? Will it alienate people? Is the speaker simply presenting some different philosophies or are they trying to explain why they are right and other people are wrong? Again – we really feel there is so much to celebrate in life and a ten minute talk about mindfulness or how you can use a potato to power your house is far more in the keeping of Sunday Assembly than ten minutes of atheist theory.
Can it be a campaigning group?
Absolutely not. Sunday Assembly is not political.
What happened in NY? Were they expelled? And could that happen to us?
New York was a real learning experience for us! Within their team they had a difference of opinion about what they wanted Sunday Assembly to be. Some people wanted a celebration of atheism and the others wanted a celebration of life. The latter is what Sunday Assembly is and so the group divided. The remaining team still run SA NYC and those that wanted to celebrate Atheism now run the Godless Revival, which is more in tune with what they wanted to do (they describe themselves as a ‘monthly atheist variety show’ – which is not us at all).
So despite it being a sticky and slightly ugly process, now everyone has what they wanted. And that is super great! This can only happen to you if you are not clear on what a Sunday Assembly is. We recommend you go through the Charter as a group and talk about what each point means.
Organizing a Sunday Assembly
How do I organise my team?
We recommend you introduce yourselves over email and organise an in-person meet up as soon as possible. Then keep meeting regularly while you establish which roles you would each like to take on (a full list of roles can be found in your starter pack) and advertise your meetings for other volunteers to come and join you. The strongest teams are those that meet regularly, get to know each other and have clearly defined roles.
What are useful tools for facilitating meetings between organisers and keeping each other informed?
A Google Group is a free and flexible way to have a continuing email and forum discussion with your team of organisers. Indeed, such a group is a key way that all the SA Everywhere organisers keep in touch. You can also use a Google Drive for group documents etc – which means that everyone can see and potentially edit documents as well. Some organisers use a private Facebook group – this is less flexible than Google, but may work is you are all keen Facebook users.
For finding times for face to face meetings or telecalls, doodle.com is an excellent free tool to canvass peoples’ availability. For getting together on voice calls Skype has the benefit of being free if you all have internet access. It’s possible for a small monthly fee to get a ‘Skype phone number’ which means that people can dial in from wherever they are and join in a Skype call.
How do I set up/name my Sunday Assembly Facebook group?
We use the format “Sunday Assembly ***YOUR TOWN***” for example “Sunday Assembly Brighton” rather than “Brighton Sunday Assembly”. This makes it easier to search for and keeps a nice continuity between groups.
Can I use Sunday Assembly logos?
Yes indeed. You will be provided with a basic branding pack upon receiving of your application. Please only use official branding rather than making your own. Again, the continuity allows people who find you to know that this is an official Sunday Assembly rather than a rogue one and keeps us all looking nice and pretty!
Can we talk to each other on the Sunday Assembly Forum?
Yes you can – and that has the benefit that it can be seen and found by others in your area too. The sign up link for the SA Forums is: https://communities.sundayassembly.com/forums/forum/sunday-assembly-everywhere-2/
No one’s replying to my emails – what do I do?
It might be that they have lost interest or, since applying to start one, have filled their time with something else. After trying a few times, send a final email saying you are starting a new thread for those who are keen and that should they find their time becomes available or that they wish to rejoin the team, to email you.
Then start a new thread for people who are keen to organise. If no one has replied at all – ask to start a forum on the SA website where we can (hopefully) find you a load of people to start a super team. Above all, don’t be disheartened. Teams evolve over time, things never go 100% smoothly, but determination will see you through.
What is the Sunday Assembly Charter?
The Sunday Assembly Charter is our statement of what we do and don’t do. You can read it online at: https://communities.sundayassembly.com/public-charter-for-the-sunday-assembly/ It’s really important that you take a close look, and also make discussing it a key priority when you are getting you team together. When you apply, you will have to agree to operate within the Charter. If you operate outside the Charter, for example by charging an admission fee (as opposed to asking for donations), not being inclusive, sacrificing babies in demonic rituals etc, then you risk being excluded from the organisation. This is all made clear in our Start-up agreement.
When will we get a website of our own?
When you have a team together, been in touch with your guide and you have decided you want to commit to setting up as a Start-up congregation, then you will complete the application form at http://tinyurl.com/saeapplication. At that point your team will enter the process to get a website of the form yourtown.sundayassembly.com. You will be able to add events, connect to your public Facebook and twitter feeds and so on. At the same point, you can be added to the main organisers network and google group.
Who do I email if I have a problem?
Your guide is your first point of contact during the start-up process. After you have applied, you will be introduced to our web team, network coordinators and so on.
Are there any helpful websites while we are starting up?
Yes. Sundayassembly.com has information about the start-up process and the Charter, which is very important. Other than that, your Guide can help you answer any questions you have for us.
What kind of support are you offering?
We are offering the Sunday Assembly brand, logos and identity, lots of helpful advice via your guide, along with web-based resources to help you start up. You will also find a warm welcome at any of the existing Sunday Assembly congregations, who have been through this process before and will be pleased to offer their insights to you.
At the moment there is no financial support available (one day we’d love to offer it), and you will have to organise your opening event yourselves and then ask for donations. SA organisers are happy to put a few pounds/dollars in the pot to get things going – the return you get from happy people living better, helping often and wondering more is definitely worth it! As things get going, you should be able to cover your costs etc from donations.
How do we fund this?
The Sunday Assembly runs entirely on donations. No one should be making a profit from this venture. Initially you will probably have to put the money up for a venue and/or any other costs you are likely to have (this can be as much or as little as you like. Some people are able to source free venues and technicians, whilst others have had to pay). What monies your Sunday Assembly make from donations is yours to keep and reinvest in your Sunday Assembly. We recommend highly that you have a treasurer and have your accounts ready to be shown at any time, should someone question what happens with your donations. Transparency is always the key with such things.
About the Sunday Assembly Service
I am not a comedian, will it be any good?
There are actually very few comedians running Sunday Assemblies. Comedy is but an element that we draw on. As long as your host is warm and welcoming, you need not worry.
How long is a Sunday Assembly?
We recommend your service is between 60 – 70 minutes.
Where are there Sunday Assemblies?
There are currently 68 across the world. Check out their locations here! If there’s not one near you, we’d love for you to start one up.
How closely do we have to follow your Assembly format/style?
We ask that you stick to the original format for the first three (simply because we know it works!) and until you have found your feet. Then you can start adding your own bits and playing around to find your style of Sunday Assembly. For example, Sunday Assembly Brighton now have a Science section instead of “This Much I Know” where someone does a 5 minute explanation of something science-y. The only thing we ask is that you stay within the Charter.
The important thing is to try to get good at it, before making wholesale changes. Master the form, before changing the form!
What tools are there for helping us stay in touch/organise meetings/bring new joiners on board?
Please go to the SA website and use the forums there, or use your Facebook/Google/Meet up group! Emails will usually also work! Have fun organizing!
We hope that answers most of your questions for now. But feel free to come up with new ones- that’s why we have assigned you all a Guide; they love questions! ? So don’t hesitate to get in touch with them!
Pippa and Sanderson x