Located in a former Christian church, the atheist church was founded by standup comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans. They started the so-called godless church because they wanted a space where non-religious folks could commune and edify one another.
The Islington Gazette, describes the first service for atheists who meet in a former Christian church, called The Nave.
According to their website, Sunday Assembly:
"The Sunday Assembly is a godless congregation that will meet on the first Sunday of every month to hear great talks, sing songs and generally celebrate the wonder of life. It’s a service for anyone who wants to live better, help often and wonder more."
Approximately 200 worshippers attended the first service held on Jan. 6. The congregation focused on the theme of "Beginnings" and will have different themes each month.
Instead of a sermon, the church invited Andy Stanton, a popular children's book author, to talk about overcoming the odds and achieving success; and instead of praying together, those gathered were encouraged at one point to close their eyes and meditate on their fears of inadequacy and failure.
With Jones taking the stage as MC, the congregation was also treated to some stand-up comedy. A rendition of Oasis' "Don't Look Back In Anger" was even sung during the gathering.
The "Sunday Assembly" is scheduled to meet on the first Sunday of every month.
Not everyone is open to prospect of an atheist church, however. London Catholic parish priest Rev. Saviour Grech said:
"How can you be an atheist and worship in a church? Surely it’s a contradiction of terms. Who will they be singing to? It is important to debate and engage with atheists[,] but for them to establish a church like any other religious denomination is going too far. I’m cautious about it.”
The Huffington Post noted:
"Critics have suggested by holding the meeting in an old church, ahend by following a format of songs interspersed by reading and addresses, the comedians are at risk of turning atheism into its own sort of religion."
Questions that have been asked about this first atheist church:
- "Why have an atheist church in what used to be a Christian church?"
- "Why patterned the service after a Christian church with songs and other activities? When you sing your songs, who are you singing to?"
- "Why have your meeting day on Sundays like Christians? There is a reason Christians worship on Sundays."
- "Because the church was started by standup comedians, doesn't that send a message that this is a 'joke.' Perhaps they are using this for their platform at worshippers expense."