A fast-growing, worldwide congregation for atheists called Sunday Assembly picked an unlikely spot to try and launch a new group.
It's Nashville. Where the Southern Baptist Convention is headquartered. Where Christian authors go to avail themselves of a vast publishing network. Where the faithful drive past several churches in their denomination on Sunday to attend just the right one.
But the founders of Sunday Assembly, British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, say they're looking forward to visiting the fledgling group personally Thursday night. In fact, Jones said, he'd even like to learn something about church planting – and there are plenty of experts in Nashville.
"What happened is, we had about three or four people signed up, in fact, in Nashville, and we got a miscommunication and thought there were a lot more people signed up than there were," Jones said. "We thought we'd go for it anyway. Taking cues from the Southern Baptist Convention, we thought we'd have faith and give it a go. Sometimes it's just about getting it started. We don't know how many people will be there, but however many there are, that will be the perfect number."
It's a philosophy that's worked well for Evans and Jones, who launched the first Sunday Assembly — frequently shorthanded in media to "atheist church" — in London less than a year ago and, within weeks, were drawing a capacity crowd. They now head up 30 congregations around the world, with major U.S. locations in New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.
On Oct. 20, Jones and Evans launched an Indiegogo.com campaign aimed at raising 500,000 British pounds, or about $805,000, to reach even more people. It was up to about $42,500 Wednesday morning.
All are welcome at the services, Jones said, but people looking for theological arguments will be disappointed. Sunday Assembly doesn't try to talk people out of their religious notions, just capture the best social parts of church without providing religious doctrine. Members celebrate life with poetry, lectures and songs such as Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'."