I have often believed, particularly at difficult times in my life, that my atheism may limit the potential for community in my world.

Thus, when I heard of the newly formed Sunday Assembly, a monthly meeting of atheists or the ‘godless’, I was intrigued.

Today I made the second of such get-togethers, in a (disused I think, and badly in need of repair, but beautiful too) church in North London. The church setting appears to affront some atheists – tweets that followed from the first meet included one that compared atheists in a church with Jewish people in a concentration camp… I do understand this sentiment, but I also think that churches can be places of beauty and of peace, which I can appreciate and benefit from, aside from the religious connotations.

There are two main people behind the concept of the Sunday Assembly, Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, both stand-up comedians, and both charismatic and entertaining, and very funny. Pippa is also a musician and singer, and leads the small band that provides the music during the Assembly.

I queued to get into the church, which became full to overflowing with people of all ages, including children. The atmosphere is not serious, but also not flippant, despite the humour and laughter and upbeat music and singing.

The motto for the Assembly is:

Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More

I like this theme.

Today focused on the wonder element, and the guest speaker was a physicist, Harry Cliff, from the Science Museum, Cambridge and CERN, who seduced us into wondering about matter, anti-matter, and The Big Bang. Powerful stuff, and he was great, clearly hugely bright and clever (and only 27 years old), but also succeeded in making difficult concepts accessible. He did make me think, and wonder…

Sanderson ended with a few words on wonder, and how a capacity for retaining the ability to wonder in our lives might just enrich it. Too often worrying interferes with wondering, and it is difficult to align both in our lives.

Singing is not my thing, and it made me cringe a little, in a queasy quasi-evangelical way.

But I like the idea behind the Sunday Assembly concept.

I will go again.

As I write, I am listening to Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service on 6 Music…

CQ

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