Sanderson Jones is one of the creators of the Sunday Assembly. His venue
went missing without warning and nobody really knows why. (image source)
The coffee house that had agreed with no sign of discomfort or protest decided at the very last minute that they did not wish to host the show after all and Ask an Atheist host Sam Mulvey was left scrambling. Now there is a new bit of apparent discrimination across the pond.
It seems that the Sunday Assembly, probably the world's most non-militant group of atheists, have lost the privilege of congregating in the deconsecrated church they have been calling home since the group's inception in January. I've been following this group since the beginning and it's really hard for me to figure out why anyone would have it in for them. I guess it's because they don't believe in the big guy in the sky.
Sunday Assembly pastor claims UK’s first atheist congregation evicted from church by moralistic Christians
I suppose this may be the first ever eviction of an atheist congregation from a church. I suppose it could be considered (non)religious persecution?
St. Paul’s Steiner School is an independent, non-selective and non-denominational school for children aged 3 – 14 years old.
Housed in a beautiful 19th century church in central London, St. Paul’s is a Steiner-Waldorf School. We provide an education that supports the development of well-rounded human beings who are resourceful, creative, responsible and curious; ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century with the problem-solving skills required for a sustainable future.You know, it looks like a really nice school. Although non-denominational raises a red flag for me personally. Judging by the article, it may not have wholly been their decision to give the Assembly the boot. It turns out that the trustees of the school were leasing the premises from the good old Church of England. Is there no fiendishly evil plot they are not behind? Maybe renting the building out to a bunch of atheists -- albeit indirectly -- made them blush too hard. Perhaps it upset their digestion.
Away from mere conjecture and back to cold, hard, unfriendly facts. One of the school trustees e-mailed Jones on Friday.
“The Sunday Assembly is regularly drawing crowds of up to 500 people, if we go beyond capacity we could be held in breach of health and safety law and we would be in very serious trouble,” he said.Okay, sure, it's a fairly good argument, but according to the article, the Assembly was already looking for a new venue. In fact:
Although the Sunday Assembly was searching for larger premises, Mr Jones arranged to use the Steiner School building in Balls Pond Road, which trustees lease from the Church of England, one last time for their monthly meeting in May.Surely, the school could have kept their promise for this one last time? They had done it before. And if crowd size was a problem, surely some well placed bouncers at the door could have rectified the problem. Perhaps the service could have been streamed via web to smartphone carrying congregants outside or a couple of televisions could be set up?
No, this apparently came out of the blue and it seems downright uncool - like someone just pulled the plug out of some kind of spite.
The worst thing is that they waited until the last moment thus screwing over the atheist group in much the same way things came to pass in Tacoma. You know, when I was a kid my father taught me to let the fish chew on the worm awhile before reeling it in and not to jerk the line as soon as I got a little nibble. Well, we'll never know if this was an intentional thing but it is fishy nonetheless.
But last Friday Mr Jones received an email from Gary Bridgewood, one of the Steiner School trustees, apologising for “messing up” the booking.
He said he had “failed” to make clear the results of a meeting with Mr Jones, and had “upset a considerable number” of his community.On an announcement at the Sunday Assembly website, Jones makes a few amusing speculations about exactly what put certain members of the school's board over the edge resulting in their reneging.
Sadly the committee members who took against the godless congregation didn’t spell out the precise reason for their disapproval. Was it novelist Sarah Dunant’s talk on the art of the Resurrection? Vicar Dave Tomlinson’s meditation on the power of metaphor and stories? Or the congregation singing Run Rabbit Run during April’s Easter service?Exactly, it must have been that rascally rabbit.
But all is not lost! The May 5th meeting has been moved to the British Humanist Association's Conway Hall, which appears to have ample room.
But the fitting character of a crumbling and dilapidated deconsecrated church, that will be missed. It was so symbolically fitting, like a phoenix rising from ashes.
Pippa wanted to add: “A deconsecrated church with just the right level of shabby chic was perfect. If anyone else can suggest some venues we’d love to hear about them. We’re homeless. Help!”.If anyone knows of a nice venue, they should get in touch with the Sunday Assembly here.