« | Home | »

Young, White and Earnest

Tags:

The Sunday Assembly, ‘a godless congregation for all’, is expanding. It was founded in January by two stand-up comics, Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones, and sells itself as ‘all the best bits of church, but with no religion and awesome pop songs’. Alain de Botton has accused them of nicking the idea from him.
 
Now Evans and Jones are trying to raise £500,000, which seems a lot, to build a website that will let them expand internationally. (They’ve got nearly £25,000 so far, with 45 days to go.) As part of their funding drive they’re giving away ‘everyday miracles’ – pots of air, earth and water – to anyone who donates £70 (0 of 700 claimed as yet) and putting on a ‘40 Dates in 40 Nights’ tour to spread their message of ‘Pentecostal Humanism’.
 
The other night I went to an Assembly at a large community centre in Brighton. The Ski Sunday theme tune was playing as I went in, or maybe it was the theme from Test Match Special. On a table by the door there was lemon squash and coffee, along with flyers for Alpha Course meetings and ‘Global Light Revival Church’ services, a theological pick ‘n’ mix. I drank some lemon squash.
 
Sanderson Jones, a tall man with a long beard, greeted people as they entered. ‘Come and sit at the front,’ he said to me. ‘This’ll be a good one, the guys here are scary competent.’ I sat next to an Italian journalist who said she was surprised at the intellectualism of the attendees, and that she didn’t think Italians would really go for the idea.
 
The band started up and we stood and sang a few songs – the Happy Days theme; ‘Jitterbug’ by Wham! – and danced awkwardly. There were maybe 150 people there. Most were young, white and earnest. Jones said that there were now 35 regular Sunday Assemblies, proving that ‘loads of people out there want to live better, help often and wonder more.’ The aim of the assemblies, he said, was to remind people that they ‘only live one life’, and that they should therefore ‘live it as fully as possible.’
 
Next we partnered up and played a clapping game, but the Italian journalist and I didn’t really understand the rules. Science had proved that the clapping would get our endorphins going, we were told, and that smiling at each other would make us feel happy. ‘The science is awesome.’
 
After the clapping, a woman in a top hat with a purple veil gave a reading from Eleanor Porter’s Pollyanna: ‘When you’re hunting for the good things, you sort of forget the other kind.’ There was a moment of silence; when he does the Assembly in Conway Hall, Jones said, ‘the humanists think we’re trying to trick them into praying.’ Someone gave a talk about W. Reginald Bray, an eccentric who sent onions, frying pans and himself through the post. The Italian journalist left during the lecture.
 
Pippa Evans gave a segment called ‘Pippa is doing her best’, in which she admitted to being a perfectionist, but said she was trying to accept that ‘if people think what I do is rubbish than that’s OK.’ We sang a song by Supergrass while a collection plate was passed around. We were urged to develop ‘an attitude of gratitude’, and then we dispersed.
 
Afterwards, over tea and cakes, I asked a group of students why they didn’t just go to church. ‘We don’t want to be told what to do,’ they said. ‘Church is full of rules. It’s written on tablets. It’s great to be able to meet people without all that in the background.’ I said it hadn’t seemed so different from Anglicanism to me.

Comments on “Young, White and Earnest”

  1. Phil Edwards says:

    Science had proved that the clapping would get our endorphins going, we were told, and that smiling at each other would make us feel happy.

    They’re tackling the “happy clappy” thing head on, I see.

    What a bizarre phenomenon – it sounds like exactly like the worst bits of organised Christianity.

  2. Cervantes says:

    As part of their funding drive they’re giving away ‘everyday miracles’ – pots of air, earth and water.

    I’m (happily) reminded of Yoko Ono and Fluxus in Manhattan in the mid-60s.

  3. orchidman says:

    The Wham song is ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” It’s extremely famous…

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • andymartinink on Reacher v. Parker: Slayground definitely next on my agenda. But to be fair to Lee Child, as per the Forbes analysis, there is clearly a massive collective reader-writer ...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: And in Breakout, Parker, in prison, teams up with a black guy to escape; another white con dislikes it but accepts the necessity; Parker is absolutely...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: Parker may not have the integrity and honesty of Marlowe, but I'd argue that Richard Stark writes with far more of both than Raymond Chandler does: Ch...
    • Christopher Tayler on Reacher v. Parker: Good to see someone holding up standards. The explanation is that I had thoughts - or words - left over from writing about Lee Child. (For Chandler se...
    • Geoff Roberts on Reacher v. Parker: ..."praised in the London Review of Books" Just read the article on Lee Child in a certain literary review and was surprised to find this rave notice...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement