We’re in one of the hippest enclaves of East London and hundreds of people are leaping up and down, singing along raucously to the ‘80s power ballad being blasted out by a triumphant band. This is no ordinary gig, though. Welcome to the world’s fastest growing church.
For the most part, this Sunday morning congregation has been enjoying something that looks a lot like a traditional church service. The addition of a frenzied clapping game, “mini-rave” break-out sessions, and those billboard anthems might be the most immediately obvious differences, but there is another significant departure: this church is a God-free zone.
Founded in London earlier this year, the atheist church is expanding fast. New branches of Sunday Assembly have already been set up in Bristol, England, Melbourne, Australia, and New York City. Next month, Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, the church’s founders, will set off on a world tour designed to announce the second wave of godless churches that are opening in Ireland, Scotland, Canada, the United States, and Australia.
The numbers are still small, but the growth has been exponential since the first atheist church service was held in January. The idea is simple: it has all of the community spirit, engagement, and inspiration of a church without any of the religious aspects. Each service has at least one guest speaker, from economists to poets, a moment of reflection and, above all, repeated entreaties to get to know the rest of the people there.