MADISON (AP) – A movement aimed at providing atheists a chance to experience the fellowship of church without all the religious trappings is coming to Madison.
Sunday Assembly Madison, the local chapter of an organization that began in London 18 months ago, will hold its first service next month, the Wisconsin State Journal reported Sunday.
One of the local organizers is Naomi Kroth, a 30-year-old Madison native who loved everything about the Christian church of her childhood – well, everything but the God talk. She stopped attending, but felt that something was lacking.
“I’ve always missed going to church – the singing, the sermon, the volunteerism, the community,” Kroth said. “But I couldn’t reconcile that with my views on religion.”
So she and others are bringing the Sunday Assembly concept to town. They’ll hold monthly gatherings at the Prairie Unitarian Universalist Society, starting Sept. 28.
Other Sunday Assembly startups are also expected to launch that day, bringing the total number of worldwide chapters to about 100 or so by the end of the year.
“We’ll be a community of like-minded people coming together to support each other and learn from each other – a godless congregation,” said Eric Snyder, 61, of Sun Prairie.
The idea began in London, launched by British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans. They said the idea of meeting once a month to sing, hear great speakers and celebrate life seemed like a fun and useful activity.
Some Sunday Assemblies have been more successful than others. The New York City chapter was so divided over whether to embrace or downplay atheism that it split into two groups.
Kroth said the goal of the Madison group won’t be to promote antagonism toward religion, but to celebrate life.
Dan Barker, the co-president of the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, acknowledged that many atheists want nothing to do with activities that resemble “playing church.” He said the point of gathering together was not to copy something invented by religious leaders.
“Those values of community and love and charity that most religions promote are not really religious values at all,” he said. “They are human values.”