Yesterday a group of strangers met to begin the initial planning of creating a Sunday Assembly in the area. Originally begun in England, it has been called an atheist church – though now the organization shies away from the word in an effort to become more inclusive.
We are here for everyone who wants to:
Live Better. We aim to provide inspiring, thought-provoking and practical ideas that help people to live the lives they want to lead and be the people they want to be
Help Often. Assemblies are communities of action building lives of purpose, encouraging us all to help anyone who needs it to support each other
Wonder More. Hearing talks, singing as one, listening to readings and even playing games helps us to connect with each other and the awesome world we live in.
I first heard of them several months ago (probably from Hemant) and immediately signed up for more information about a Sunday Assembly in Raleigh. Finally, in January I received an email from SA putting a group of Raleighites in touch with one another. Unfortunately, we never picked up steam – after 6 weeks only 3 or so folks had responded at all. Someone made the suggestion that we consider joining up with the Durham/Chapel Hill group since they had some momentum – so SA put both groups in touch with one another. Todd Stiefel (of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation) put us in touch with the Triangle Freethought Society (TFS) as well, since they’re an established secular organization in the area.
The mission of TFS is:
As members of TFS, we believe our main purpose is to stand up for the separation of church and state as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
Additionally, we strive to:
- Ensure that non-religious people enjoy the same rights as religious citizens
- Raise awareness and educate the general population about the concerns and issues facing the nontheist community
- Protect reason-based and scientific education within our school systems
- Engage in organized charitable and community improvement projects
- Create a sense of community for the nontheist population in our geographical area and beyond
So yesterday we met up at the Chapel Hill Public Library. Ten people showed up. 4 were from TFS. I was the only one from the Raleigh group.
And if I’m being honest, I’m disappointed with the way the meeting went.
The people were fabulous, and it was nice being in the same room with folks who are looking for something similar to myself. There was momentum in the room – these folks want something to get started.
But TFS already has a plan in place for a Sunday Program – they hope to roll it out in the Fall. It’s different from a Sunday Assembly, but they came to the meeting to see if SA would be a better option and to find out what kind of support and programs SA offers.
I was left feeling as if my only option – being from Raleigh – was going to be TFS. They have a base in Raleigh already, and they are aware that most of their members wouldn’t travel to Chapel Hill (or even Durham) for a Sunday program. The inverse is true of those from Chapel Hill. So it almost seems as if the “best” solution is to let TFS have the Raleigh area (which would require a $25 membership fee if I wanted to be involved – and clearly I do) and a Sunday Assembly would move forward in Chapel Hill.
TFS is a great organization. They do a lot of stuff in the secular community, but I’ve never wanted to get involved because, as shown above, first and foremost they exist to stand up for separation of church and state. While I believe this is a need that they fulfill, it’s not something I have personally wanted to become involved in. I still don’t at this point in time.
Sunday Assembly is different; Sunday Assembly brings people together to celebrate this life and connect with one another. Activism may eventually come out of this community, but that’s not the mission statement or vision of Sunday Assembly. The purpose is building community and providing a safe space for secular human beings to come together.
Both organizations have their place. Both organizations complement one another.
But I didn’t like the feeling that it has to be either/or and that likely my only option is a group I am not especially excited about, when I came to the meeting because I am excited about Sunday Assembly. It’s a really big deal that I showed up by myself to meet a group of strangers. I did it because I believe in Sunday Assembly and it was important to me. I don’t go to any of the events that are sent to me through Meet-Up because I’m just not going to show up by myself to hang out with a bunch of people I don’t know – but who all know each other already.
It’s ironic that I went to a planning/organizational meeting for a group to build community and left feeling as if I had none.