What is a ‘secular congregation’?

This is an unconventional turn of phrase, we admit.  ‘Congregation’ is usually applied to gatherings for church.  ‘Secular’, on the other hand, means non-religious.  So… a secular congregation is a gathering that looks a bit like church, but has no religious background or content. 

Why do you run a secular congregation?

Because there are lots of benefits from going to church-like gatherings – meeting a broad variety of other people, singing together, hearing inspiring talks and readings, reflecting on how we live our lives, helping others, eating cake and so on.  We don’t think these benefits should be restricted to those with religious faith – so we offer Sunday Assembly as an alternative way to do these things without any religious baggage.

How and when did Sunday Assembly start?

The Sunday Assembly movement started in London in 2013.  The two co-founders, comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, discovered by chance that they had both been to church in their youth, stopped going because they no longer ‘believed’, but missed something about the experience.  They had both wondered about setting up something that was like church, but without religion… and decided to do something about it.  The first assembly was at the Nave in Islington, an arts space and former church, on January 6th 2013.  They expected about 30 people – but some 250 showed up! The media heard about it, the BBC and others reported it, and folk from all over the world started getting in touch wanting their own Sunday Assembly.  There are now some 50 Sunday Assemblies in eight countries. 

When did Sunday Assembly Edinburgh start?

Sunday Assembly Edinburgh started in August 2013, when co-founders Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans were in town for the Fringe.  A group of enthusiasts decided to carry on and the assembly here in Edinburgh has been operating ever since – making it one of the longest-running groups in the world.  We have been featured on BBC Reporting Scotland as a leading member of SA movement and hosted the international Gathering of Sunday Assembly organisers in 2018.  We are an ‘accredited assembly’ within the movement, which means we have shown ourselves to be responsibly and sustainably organised and paragons of what Sunday Assembly is all about.  We also run a book club, Live Better groups, a writers group and more. 

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 Scotland 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.

Do I have to buy a ticket or be a member to come?

No, absolutely not.  Sunday Assembly is always free to attend for anyone who wishes to come along.  Just show up!  We’ll say hello and get you meeting other people (or leave you in peace if that’s what you prefer).  We do take a collection to help cover the costs of hiring the room and providing refreshments – you can give what you can afford, if you’d like to.  And we can now take contactless card payments!

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. We have people from all walks of life as part of our community- whatever your background, race, faith or age you are welcome.

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.

Can I start a Sunday Assembly in my own city/town?

It’s certainly possible, and we’d be delighted to help.  The first thing to do is to get in touch with us, and to come along to a Sunday Assembly to see what it’s like.  The Sunday Assembly movement is currently looking at new ways to support and include start-ups and we can give you the low-down on the latest situation.