Attending the Sunday Assembly for the first time

About a month ago I was curious to see if atheists went to any church at all — so I went to Google and typed in “Atheist church” and the first result was the Sunday Assembly.

It turned out that they had a meeting in Sydney on the 27th of December, so I booked it in my calendar to take a look.

Today I went to the Sunday assembly for the first time and this is my report of what it was like.

Location & Arrival

The meeting was in Redfern town hall, in the hall itself upstairs. I arrived about 15 minutes early so I took a seat. There was a band setting up in the front of the hall and I had read that music was part of the service. Bands like this are common in non-LDS Christian congregations so I wasn’t surprised. I met a lovely Chinese guy and his daughter who was in the band (playing piano) and I found they speak Mandarin so I had a nice chat with them before the service started.

The meeting started at 11:00 AM and had about 30 people in the room when beginning.

Beginning and first impressions

One of the first things that I noticed was people walking in with their coffee cups to a church service 🙂 Since I have only ever once been to a non-LDS church service (Church of England while on my mission) I had never seen people taking coffee into church before.

Then the congregation minister stood up at the front, and welcomed us with the following line:

“Good morning people of no religion”

Speaker (Christmas Quiz fun)

The service today was a bit different from usual as it was just after Christmas day. Instead of a speaker we had a fun Quiz about historical details about the Christmas story such as the actual date of Jesus’ birth, how many wise men there were, whether there was actually a census at the time of his birth, the stable / manger, etc.

The questions were interesting and the discussion lively. There was lots of laughter as people guessed certain details, I was fascinated by the knowledge of the people there, it was clear that some of them were ex-Christian as they knew a lot of the details. I assume the presenter did his homework and his answers were correct. We also discussed the origin of Christmas as a Pagan festival and which Christian religions celebrate Christmas etc.

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There were three pieces of music, all of them congregation sing along. They were various popular songs, I don’t remember the actual songs. The congregation stood and sat for each piece of music.

Moment of silence

During the meeting we had a moment of silence to ponder “whatever you want to ponder, your family, your friends, your dreams, your life, the world, the universe, whatever”, and we all sat in silence for a minute, I closed my eyes and did a brief meditation with deeper breathing and cleared my mind. It was quite pleasant.

Meet someone new

We were given a minute to also introduce ourselves to the people around us and get to know them. When attending the Sunday assembly at the door there are stickers for everyone to write down their names so it was really easy to meet people and introduce yourself when you have a sticker with your name and theirs. I had a brief pleasant chat with the lady next to me.

Short meeting, quick ending, and socialising

The most surprising (and pleasant) part for me was the fact that the meeting itself was only 45 minutes, I asked someone if this was normal and they said it ended a bit early, usually it ends after 1 hour.

Then they let us all socialise for the next hour. There was cake, tea and biscuits. I had a great time and introduced myself to almost everyone. I approached the leadership of the group and volunteered to give a presentation about transitioning out of Mormonism if they are interested.

The coolest part of going for me was the level of interest shown towards me as an “Ex-Mormon”. I introduced myself to a number of people and we spoke about our religious backgrounds. It was quite an interesting mixture. Several people were ex-Christians turned atheist and several others were never-religious. They all showed more interest than I had anticipated in my story.

It’s quite a contrast because the usual reaction from within the church and believing members is just “don’t want to know” — don’t want to know about your doubts, why you have struggles, etc. The reaction from their side was more predominantly fascination — they asked me questions like “what was it like to be a missionary?” “What lead you to start questioning your faith?” “what do you consider yourself now?” — there was no concern about the welfare about my soul, claims of my being deceived or preaching to me — all quite refreshing.

Some other people also had interesting stories. One lady was currently in our education system (in a Catholic school) and still a closet atheist. Another man (the congregation leader) was an ex-Christian who was studying theology to become a minister when he lost his faith. Apparently a few months back they’d had an ex-scientologist come to the meeting to explain his transition out of scientology. Generally speaking though they said their speaking topics were not on transitioning out of religion but about various secular topics and promoting positive values.


Overall I really enjoyed the meeting and meeting some smart, bright and happy people. The Sunday Assembly only meets once a month for this 1 hour meeting / (optional up to) 1 hour socialising so I will probably attend again in the future as it’s not very time consuming. Hopefully I will present at sometime in the future and I’ll record the presentation for my blog. It was nice to be among people with such diverse backgrounds and very friendly.

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1 Comment

  1. Robert

    Hey Shawn!
    Thanks for sharing your experience, and really glad you found more people you could relate to and who took an interest in you 🙂
    Peace brother


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