Sunday Fellowship: Church without the church, but also mostly just church.

When we went down to Southampton a couple of weeks ago we joined our friends for the Monthly Quaker "youth" outing to the Southampton Sunday Assembly. For those of you who don't know, the Sunday Assembly was started in 2013 as an idea to take the best bits of church such as communal singing and gathering together, but without any of the crappy religious bits that obviously makes actual Church rubbish. Here are their four point summary (see, they even shirk the three point sermon):

  • We are a secular congregation that celebrates life.
  • We have an awesome motto: Live Better, Help Often and Wonder More.
  • A super mission: A Sunday Assembly in every town, city and village that wants one.
  • An awesome vision: To help everyone live life as fully as possible.

So we went along and it was just like church. Actually, it was closer to some of the funkier churches in Southampton such as New Life or Vineyard, perhaps even a little CU at a push. There were the funky folk, the quirky outsiders, the poets and the rebels. After an initial slightly awkward meet and greet time with coffee and tea the service got under way with some singing of traditional pop songs (Cold Play's "Fix You" was rather enjoyable) followed an excellent poem on apathy by an American member of the congregation. The main sermon was also good, by local poet come song writer Grant Sharkey about maintaining a line between love and anger (and included the term 'binge thinking' which I rather liked). This was followed by the short five minute talk (which went on for nearer 30) and tried to get us to share nice things that had happened in the past week. We then prayed together. No, I mean we thought together. There was even a collection!
It was good. Nice people and a friendly atmosphere, just like a good church should be and quite often are. It was markedly young, as seen by their twitter banner and I suspect most of my church would feed out of place and not as a result of the lack of God. Indeed I barely felt there was a lack of God, just that no one mentioned him or tried to avoid mentioning him (actually Grant accidentally did). This was simply church re-imagined by young people who failed to be taken along to a CU while at university. Or perhaps they were taken along to a CU, or similar funky modern church where they were prayed at or otherwise intimidated into being saved, resisted but secretly enjoyed the whole thing.
Perhaps I'm being a little facetious. I'm sure there are plenty of reasons why people were there, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if a number were ex-evangelicals, some of them had that look. Either way there is something other actual churches could learn: people like to sing together, and do pretty much everything else that Church does. It's not even the preaching that puts people off, though no doubt some of the older traditional stuff has. We just need to loosen up a little and funk it up. But at the same time I certainly don't want to loose all the lovely silver backs we have in my local Church - they bring such warmth, love, vision and stability that should be treasured. Also they are most certainly not all stuck-in-the-mud bores who don't want change. Lets all sit together and learn from each other. It is hard to be a cohesive living church of all ages, but God really can help, even if some have to pretend not to have heard about him.
PS. The idea of giving new people different coloured mugs so everyone knows who's new and who's not is a wizard idea.
2015-08-17