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Global mission: atheist ‘church’ launches in USA
The “atheist church service” launched in London this year has expanded across the Atlantic.
The Sunday Assembly, founded by comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, has set up a monthly event in New York, with outposts to follow soon in Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle.
Some 600 non-believers have gathered at York Hall, Bethnal Green, since January to listen to inspirational talks, sing songs accompanied by a live band, make friends and volunteer for good causes. Meetings are about to move from monthly to fortnightly.
The New York event was held on 30 June. It brought the first protester — a man with a home-made placard reading: “Demonaic [sic] heathens #1 Jones #2 Pippa Evans.” And the organisers only realised the venue was a bikini bar, employing scantily clad waitresses, when they came to book it. However, the event was a big success, with more than 100 people turning up.
The Sunday Assembly was created after Jones attended a Christmas carol service and enjoyed the sense of community: “There were so many wonderful things about it, but at the centre of it there was something I didn’t believe in. And for me, life is such an absolute gift so why can’t we talk about that?”
He added: “I’d always thought there’d be people in other parts of the world who would like this. It was picked up by the media and more than 750 people around the world have written to us saying they’d like a Sunday Assembly in their town.” At the New York meeting, the congregation sang songs by the Beatles and Queen, and closed with Proud Mary by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Guest speaker was Chris Stedman, a humanist chaplain at Harvard.