At first glance, Sunday Assembly’s gatherings may look much like any other religious service. There’s music, fellowship and speakers; but one major feature has been excluded – religion.
Sunday Assembly is a nonprofit, volunteer-run and funded organization that promotes itself as a secular congregation that celebrates life. Their motto is to “live better, help often, wonder more.” The community hosts a large gathering once a month as well as smaller service projects and activities.
The global organization first launched in London in 2013 and has over 70 chapters. The Chapel Hill chapter held its first assembly in January 2015. Although none of the founding members are still with the Chapel Hill chapter, Kevin Klein and Heather Greer-Klein both got involved shortly after it launched in Chapel Hill about three years ago.
Kevin Klein, the chair of Sunday Assembly Chapel Hill, said although there are a few members who hold religious beliefs, the assemblies mostly attract agnostic and atheist members.
“It’s kind of a community organization for people who maybe don’t have one by virtue of lack of faith or just like to be around other science-y, nerdy types, which we largely tend to be,” Klein said.
Klein said although he went to mass every week for years growing up, he didn’t connect with many people in the Catholic congregation. He said the congregation he grew up in was more focused on the immortal afterlife instead of the “here and now.”
While traditionally religious congregations are unified by growth in faith, Klein said Sunday Assembly is brought together by intellectual curiosity and the sciences. The community focuses on themes of their present place in the world to bring the community together, he said.
According to Klein, Sunday Assembly Chapel Hill has not received much negative feedback from religious organizations in the area. The organization holds their meetings at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro, across the hall from an evangelical church, and Klein has found both communities to be very welcoming and friendly with each other.
“I think there’s an understanding that we are doing what we are doing for very similar reasons,” Klein said.