Written by Tyler Rollinson. Media by Katie Wallace & Tyler Rollinson.
As a student at Greenville College, I have heard the word community many times. More and more I am discovering the importance of, and need for, community. I’m also learning more and more about what community really looks like and what it means to truly “live in community.”
Caleb Suko introduced me to something that has intrigued me, with something he wrote titled, Atheist Church and 4 Other Signs Atheism is Dying. Before reading that, I would have never guessed that Atheist Church existed. So naturally, I did a little research to see what Sunday Assembly, the Atheist Church, is all about. The tagline for Sunday Assembly, according to their website appears to be: “A global movement for wonder and good.” Once again, quoting their website, the motto of Sunday Assembly is: “live better, help often, wonder more.” Their mission is: “to help everyone find and fulfill their full potential.” Their vision is: “a godless congregation in every town, city and village that wants one.”
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.
I find it very interesting that Sunday Assembly is an attempt to “do church” without God. Above is the answer to “What happens at a Sunday Assembly?” question on the website’s FAQ page. Going back to the article where I first learned about Sunday Assembly, there is a quote that really grabbed my attention.
It’s obvious that our atheistic friends want something more. They long for the relational element that most religions offer.
I would say that the “relational element” that is mentioned is community. After that, Caleb goes on to say, “Ironically they are trying to become more like their friends who believe in God but do it in a way that doesn’t require God.” So once again, these atheists are trying to “do church” without God.
Because it seems as if a lack of community is the reason for the existence of Sunday Assembly, I’ve been thinking about what it is that sets Christian community apart from any other type of community.
Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. – Romans 12:4-5
As followers of Christ, we make up a special type of community, The Body of Christ. The existence of The Church is how this community is fleshed out. We each have our own special and unique qualities, but together, we are known as one group. This is Christian community as we know it.
The Church is an example of community. Sunday Assembly is an example of community. Community can be seen and experienced in many different ways. In what ways can we, and should we, use community to point others to Jesus? How can we use knowledge of a desire to belong in community to help make the world a better place? I think the first step is to acknowledge the fact that there are people who are longing to be in community. The next step would be to inform others of that knowledge. Then, use that knowledge to go out into the world and make a difference.
Tim Hawkins has even used his knowledge of these Atheist Churches to use as a part of his comedy act.
The Sunday Assembly website gives 10 points that describe Sunday Assembly. I’m going to point out numbers 4 and 6.
Is radically inclusive. Everyone is welcome, regardless of their beliefs – this is a place of love that is open and accepting.
Has a community mission. Through our Action Heroes (you!), we will be a force for good.
I would say that we as Christians should really look at these two statements. As Christians, we should be a community that is known for our radical love.
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13:34, 35