Sunday Assembly

Sunday Assembly is a non-religious gathering co-founded by Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans in January 2013 in London, England.[2] The gathering is mostly for non-religious people who want a similar communal experience to a religious church, though religious people are also welcome. As of December 2019, assemblies are established in 48 locations around the world[3] with the majority in Europe and the United States, and are run and funded by volunteers from their communities.

Sunday Assembly
Formation6 January 2013; 10 years ago (2013-01-06)
FoundersSanderson Jones and Pippa Evans
Legal statusCharity: No. 1162995[1]
  • UK, Australia, Germany, Ireland, Nertherlands, New Zealand, United States Edit this at Wikidata


Stand-up comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans started the first Sunday Assembly in North London in January 2013 as they "both wanted to do something like church but without God".[4] The first event, attended by over 300 people, was held in a deconsecrated church in Islington,[5] but due to the limited size of the venue later meetings have been held in Conway Hall.[6] Since then events have continued to be held, twice a month, with one attracting as many as 600 people.[7][8]

Sunday Assembly generated much press and interest with Stephen Fry discussing it on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.[9] In October 2013, Sunday Assembly started an Indiegogo campaign that raised £33,668 out of a £500,000 goal[10] to fund building a digital platform to help grow the organisation. The formation of satellite congregations was promoted with a 40-day tour through the United Kingdom, Dublin (Ireland), the United States and Australia.[6][11] The platform is designed to help provide a resource for people wishing to set up their own assembly and to connect with each other.[12]

Sanderson Jones said that he does not "expect much objection from religious communities. They are happy for us to use their church model," but he suspected that there may be "more aggressive atheists who will have an issue with it."[13] However, some Christians objected: William McCrea, the DUP Member of Parliament for South Antrim (Northern Ireland), called the assembly "highly inappropriate", because of its rejection of God and an afterlife.[14] During the initial promotion tour in 2013, Kimberly Winston of the Religion News Service stated that some atheists felt that "getting money is their goal".[15]

Part of the New York City branch split off because they wanted to emphasise the atheist element more than the founders liked.[16]

Responding to questions about lack of diversity in the people to whom Sunday Assemblies appealed, Sanderson Jones said "I don't [think] there's anything that's inherently elite about people getting together to sing songs and think about themselves and improve their community. But we can't wait to see people doing it in all manner of different places in all manner of different ways, that appeal to all manner of different people."[11]

Sunday Assembly has been the subject of widespread academic research,[17] [18] and was featured in the 'How We Gather' report from Harvard University researchers on how millennials are finding community and meaning.[19] In 2018, the journal Secularism and Nonreligion published a six-month longitudinal study of Sunday Assembly participants, which showed a statistically significant improvement in participant's wellbeing.[20]

Local assembliesEdit

Following the initial events held in London, Sunday assemblies have been held in about ninety cities, both in the United Kingdom and in other countries around the world:[21] including the United States (New York City, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh,[22] and San Diego, amongst others), the Netherlands,[23] Germany,[24][25] New Zealand,[26] Australia, Canada, and Hungary. Since 2018, Sunday Assembly has moved from a centralised model with satellite assemblies adhering to the central charter,[11] to an association model where assemblies follow guidance outlining the principles of The Sunday Assembly and some rules which it is suggested are followed for at least some time,[27] with variations based on geography and local community needs.

Amy Boyle Executive Director of Sunday Assembly Los Angeles speaking at the 8th Freethought Alliance Conference in 2018


Attendees listen to talks by speakers such as Sandi Toksvig,[28] socialise, and sing songs by artists such as Stevie Wonder and others.[4][29][30] Some assemblies also run social clubs and community support events such as Live Better groups, where members assemble regularly to support each other in their life goals and challenges.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "SUNDAY ASSEMBLY". Charity Commission for England and Wales. Charity Commission. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Sunday Assembly - Learn About Us".
  3. ^ "Find an Assembly". Sunday Assembly Online. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  4. ^ a b Pigott, Robert (1 November 2013). "Doing church without God". BBC News. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  5. ^ Wheeler, Brian (4 February 2013). "What happens at an atheist church?". BBC News. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Wholly spirit". The Economist. 26 October 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  7. ^ Jacobs, Emma (18 October 2013). "'Church without god' looks for new ways of funding mission". Financial Times. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  8. ^ Shaha, Alom (March–April 2013). "Why we need humanist churches". New Humanist: 28–30.
  9. ^ Stephen, Fry (22 May 2013). "Stephen Fry discussing Sunday Assembly on 'The Late, Late Show' 'Freethought Discussion'". YouTube. Retrieved 18 September 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ "Godless Congregations for All: The Sunday Assembly Global Platform". Indiegogo.
  11. ^ a b c Addley, Esther (14 September 2013). "Atheist Sunday Assembly branches out in first wave of expansion". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  12. ^ Solon, Olivia (20 October 2013). "'Atheist church' seeks £500,000 in crowdfunding to build online platform". Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  13. ^ Engelhart, Katie (22 September 2013). "Atheism starts its megachurch: Is it a religion now?". Salon. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  14. ^ Rutherford, Adrian. "DUP MP criticises first Northern Ireland meeting of atheist 'church'". Belfasttelegraph. Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  15. ^ Winston, Kimberly (29 November 2013). "Sunday Assembly 'Atheist Church' Provokes Criticism". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  16. ^ The remaining group in New York halted organising its Sunday Assemblies in 2016: Assemblies Are On Hiatus…But We Aren’t Stopping! – Sunday Assembly NYC, 19 January 2016. See also Kimberly Winston's article and the general Sunday Assembly Website FAQ.
  17. ^ "The Sunday Assembly : creating community among the nonreligious". Kingston upon Thames, U.K. 7 July 2015. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. ^ Cross, Katie (3 July 2017). "The Sunday Assembly in Scotland: Vestiges of Religious Memory and Practise in a Secular Congregation". Practical Theology. 10 (3): 249–262. doi:10.1080/1756073X.2017.1344418. hdl:2164/11697. ISSN 1756-073X. S2CID 148957369.
  19. ^ Oppenheimer, Mark (27 November 2015). "When Some Turn to Church, Others Go to CrossFit (Published 2015)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  20. ^ Price, Michael E.; Launay, Jacques (8 August 2018). "Increased Wellbeing from Social Interaction in a Secular Congregation". Secularism and Nonreligion. 7 (1): 6. doi:10.5334/snr.102. ISSN 2053-6712.
  21. ^ Sunday Assembly. "Global Assembly List". Archived from the original on 17 March 2017. Retrieved 4 February 2018. Celebrating Life Together Through Inspiring Events and Caring Communities in 70+ Cities Worldwide; as of 4 February 2018, the list mentioned 92 places, however not all of them active at the time.
  22. ^ "Sunday assembly: A godless congregation that aims to do good". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 1 February 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  23. ^ "Kerk zonder geloof loopt vol". Trouw. 29 September 2014.
  24. ^ Torsten Landsberg, Dieses schöne Gefühl der Gemeinschaft, in Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 8 February 2015, p. 44
  25. ^ Ruth van Doornik, Es ist eine Art Kirche - nur eben ohne Gott, ‘’Die Welt’’, 22-10-2017
  26. ^ "Godless church launches in Christchurch". TV3 (New Zealand). NZN. 27 September 2014. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  27. ^ "Start an Assembly". Sunday Assembly Online. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  28. ^ "Hackney's atheist church aims to 'do good without God' as it prepares for world tour". Hackney Citizen. 9 October 2013. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  29. ^ Fransen, Sietske (10 April 2013). "Always look on the bright side of life". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  30. ^ Richman, Simmy (27 October 2013). "The Bonus Track: Sunday Assembly wants you, Daughter get lucky, froggin' country and Midlake's new video". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 2 November 2013.

External linksEdit