Sunday Assembly: Schism and Debate
Sunday Assembly: Schism and Debate

Sunday Assemblies?

Faith > Practice > Religious Institution

The recent Blue Boat blog post of observations made after attending the recent Boston-based Sunday Assembly generated a healthy response and lively debate on the merits and limits of the Sunday Assembly model. Sunday Assembly strikes a chord and hits a nerve. It is a meaningful option for those who seeking a faith their spiritual "home". Examining the future of faith we note that throughout history the growth of faith movements can be said to follow a common arc: assembling the faithful, institutionalizing the practice of faith, organizing the faithful and consolidating faith within the institutional framework. Ultimately this arc points toward the exclusion of some and toward the creation of new forms of faith and spiritual seeking.

Sarah Posner  and Katie Engelhart discuss the some of the trappings of traditional churches that Sunday Assembly has begun to adopt, including accreditation, non-profit status of local affiliates, branding and merchandising, and debate the connection between increasing institutionalism and the schism between Sunday Assembly's founders and a local group in New York. Are schisms inevitable? Can spiritual assembly be religious without institutional guidance? Is there a place for atheist churches, or are atheist religious gatherings something else?

Video description (from The Posner Show):

On The Posner Show, Sarah Posner (, God's Profits) talks with Katie Engelheart (  about the successes and challenges of the Sunday Assembly, the "atheist megachurch." How did the Sunday Assembly spread from East London to forty cities around the world? What caused a split between the Sunday Assembly and a group in New York, which complained about prohibitions on talking about atheism? They discuss why atheist church is appealing—or not—to atheists. Katie says when you create a new church, schisms are inevitable. What is the role of charismatic leaders in keeping churches afloat? Finally: What does the future hold for atheist churches?

  Watch the video on here.

About the Author

  • Ted joined the staff of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in February 2010. He brings more than twenty-five years of experience using media to create social change by creating communications strategies and content for progressive non-profits, political campaigns, and cause based...

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