The RC church’s view on Sunday Assemblies

The Right Reverend Declan Laing, Bishop of Clifton, said the Sunday Assembly demonstrates “the human need to celebrate and to belong” and added it would be “interesting to see how it develops”.

He said: “I think people will have those needs satisfied to begin with but will need something more eventually.”

Bishop Laing points out that the Catholic Church is also enjoying a surge in parishioners in the wake of their new charismatic Pontiff, Pope Francis.

Majority of Brits Believe the Church and the State Should be Separate

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“A new Yougov poll has found that the majority of people in Britain think the Church of England should be separated from the state.”


Asking the same questions as a similar poll from 1957, the results were strikingly different:

“In 1957, 37% said it should separate with 37% saying should stay connected (26% didn’t know). In 2013, 51% said church and state should separate with 27% saying it should remain connected (23% didn’t know).”


What are your thoughts? Can religion answer all or most of today’s problems or is it largely old-fashioned and out-of-date? Do you believe there is life after death? Should religious leaders such as the Archbishop of Canterbury keep out of political matters or express their views on politics?

Sunday Assembly rocks

It wasn’t your average Advent Sunday service. It started with a rousing chorus of Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ and ended with Abba’s  ’Waterloo’.

In between there was a poem dedicated to Tony Wilson, a mini rave and a Danish clapping game.

This was Sunday Assembly, a “godless church” which has one aim – to celebrate life.
It has all the trappings of a traditional Sunday service – a sermon, songs, readings, community notices, a collection, tea and cakes – but none of the religion. Its only creed is live better, help often, wonder more.

Full story at

Church of England – is it still relevant?

“No one much cares what the Church of England says about sex. That includes most churchgoers.”
(Editorial, Guardian)

“If the church can begin to think like a voluntary organisation rather than part of an imperial state that no longer exists, it may just have something to attract the children and grandchildren of the generation that abandoned it when Carey was archbishop.”
(Andrew Brown, Guardian)

“It’s certainly hard to take the Church of England very seriously on the day it continues its furious debate over how many women bishops can dance on the head of a traditionalist.”
(Andrew Neather, London Evening Standard)

Source NSS.

The Unthinkable

One Woman’s Opinion on Female Genital Mutilation

fgm pic#

Throughout history the words culture and tradition have been used to excuse the repetition of countless atrocities, usually with the aim of preserving male dominance.

In present day we have the objectification of women, teaching young girls that their most important feature is their looks. To more violent practices such as honour killings and female genital mutilation (FGM).

Because it is now easier for people to travel around the world, FGM is becoming a world wide problem.  On the flip side this means that more people are becoming educated and we can help to rid the world of this crime.

I have been involved in a few online discussions on this subject and am amazed at the amount of people who do not know that it happens. So for those of you who do not…

Wikipedia describes it as ‘all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons’.

To me this description does not describe the appalling level of suffering, immorality and depravity involved.

In extreme cases FGM is the total removal of a child’s clitoris and outer and inner labia.  What is remaining is stretched together and, along with the vagina, sewn up, leaving a small hole. This is typically done with a razor or broken glass whilst the child is held down and given no anaesthetic. As you can imagine this causes mental and emotional problems, constant problems with urination, menstruation, repeated infections, problems with child birth and in some cases death.

The mildest form of FGM can involve shaving some of the clitoris off, pricking, scraping or burning the area.

There was a case in the news this week (November 2013) where two men were arrested in the UK for performing the procedure on a 5 week old baby. Unfortunately the prosecution have hit a stumbling block as the girl may not have had her British passport at the time and the procedure took place abroad. It’s a shame that they may get away with it because of such immaterial boundaries; they still did what they did no matter what country it was in.

Violence against women

Why? I hear you ask, why do mothers perpetuate this violence from one generation to the next.

The origins of FGM are unknown. But the reasons are always the same: to control women and their sexuality, to prevent waywardness and apparently the clitoris is dangerous and will kill a newborn baby, to mention a few…

The procedure is typically performed as a ‘coming of age’ practice, so that a man can know that his wife is a virgin. But the girls themselves can be told varying levels of myths and lies to make them actually want the procedure. They will be clean and pure, it will make them more fertile, men will want them because they are more feminine.

The problem is made worse by the lack of education.  Children brought up in very insular communities are taught to believe what they are told and not taught to think for themselves.  It is not until they leave these communities that they realise FGM is not a universal practice.

Although FGM predates modern religions, the prevalence is highest amongst Muslim and Christian women. Religious leaders from many backgrounds are now trying to distance themselves from it, claiming it to be a cultural practice.  Some in a bid to stop the practise but unfortunately some as an excuse to carry on doing it.

This is where tradition and superstition becomes very harmful.  This is not a cultural difference that we do not understand and should accept; this is life changing brutality, ruining the lives of young girls.

Until education is prioritised instead of using the lack of education as a tool to control people, this practice is going to continue.  It is thanks to charities like Daughters of Eve ( that a difference is starting to be made.

Until women all over the world are empowered, educated and allowed to make decision about their own bodies then I, for one, will not be able to rest.

Although the practice is illegal in the UK, thousands of young girls are at risk of being taken out of the country by family members for the procedure. So I think we should all start talking about it, whether you are male of female, TALK ABOUT IT in public with your friends, and stop it from being a taboo subject.

As a humanist and atheist I believe that this is the only life we have, the only body we will ever have, the only chance to experience the universe as a conscious human being.

What gives someone the right to take that away from you?

Sunday Assemblies are not just for Atheists and Humanists


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Sunday Assembly in Leeds

Extracts from an article in the Yorkshire Post

Chris Osborne

Chris Osborne

“We want to build a community that anyone can be a member of, there’s no entry requirements – you just have to be prepared to ponder life, do some good and get involved,” says Chris.

“We want to come together to celebrate the one life that we know we have.

“The big questions like ‘why am I here?’ really do keep people awake at night,” he says.

“Whereas a few hundred years ago they may have spoken to a priest and found reassurance, a lot of people today miss that and a lot of people feel really isolated because there’s nowhere to turn.”

In less than a year, the idea has become a worldwide movement, with Sunday Assemblies cropping up across the UK, America, Australia and beyond.

“We’re not saying to people that they’re not going to heaven, or that Allah isn’t real, and we’re not saying to people that they shouldn’t be a Hasidic Jew – what we’re saying is that if you feel isolated but don’t feel like you fit into a religious community we’d like to hang out with you,” says Chris.

The group prides itself on not trying to compete with other religious groups, and says that anyone is welcome to attend.

“Our doors are open to everyone,” says Ian. “We get together to talk about the things that we know – we know that there’s at least one life, and we should enjoy it while it’s here.

“As a group we’re focused on the here and now, and trying to encourage other people to do that.

The Sunday Assembly had its first meeting in Leeds last month and attracted over 120 people, which isn’t a bad turnout.

“We sing rock and pop songs instead of hymns, we have moments of quiet reflection instead of prayer, instead of a sermon we have an interesting talk – something thought provoking,” says Michelle Beckett, who sits on the organising committee for the Assembly.

“We’ve had great feedback from people on Facebook and Twitter saying it was really uplifting,” she adds.

The word ‘atheist’ comes from the ancient Greek word meaning ‘without God’, so in a sense describing the Sunday Assembly as an ‘atheist church’ seems fitting, but it is not without its problems.

The Assembly does not preach against the existence of God, nor does it take shots at other people’s beliefs.

“The Press have coined the term ‘atheist church’ which is useful as a starting point, but it’s not strictly true,” says Michelle.

“We’re actually quite far removed from atheism – it just so happens that we don’t mention God or the supernatural.

“There’s no pushing of atheism – as you’d get with someone like Richard Dawkins. We want to get as far away from that as possible – we’re more inclusive than that,” she says.

“We don’t get together to bash religion or anything like that,” adds Ian. “Many of our members are ex-Christians who miss the feeling of community you get in a church and just like the idea of getting together and celebrating life.”

Indeed, the idea of creating an inclusive community that doesn’t put conditions on its members is at the heart of the Sunday Assembly’s ethos.

Christian comments on Atheist Sunday Assemblies




This is what a Christian writer has to say about Sunday Assemblies



Sunday Assembly fills a need for those who have left the faith (and there are apparently a lot of them out there) and miss the community that a congregation provided for them.

Furthermore, those without faith often feel invisible in a society where faith still plays a role in many people’s lives. They want to show they’re good people, too. So a relatively small number of them have decided to go the worship service route.

Not all atheists see this as a good thing. One, Michael Luciano, blogged about the movement, saying, “There’s something not OK with appropriating all of this religious language, imagery and ritual for atheism.”

But those participating in a Sunday Assembly in Los Angeles seemed to enjoy the service. People without faith seem to understand there is something of value that faith offers, and are trying to emulate it.

Their motto is “live better, help often, wonder more.”

According to the charter, their vision is “a godless congregation in every town, city and village that wants one.”

I know some people who are atheist and agnostic. Some just love to take a dig at people of faith. Some are like me in that they enjoy a debate of the issues without descending into yelling, screaming, and name-calling. They are like any other people you meet – and the ones I tend to interact with the most are kind, good people who aren’t evil, unlike the ideas some “Christians” come up with.
“a godless congregation in every town, city and village that wants one.”

And while I’m flattered that there are those who see value in what we people of faith have in our congregations, I feel as if they’re missing the point. That by seeing what is good, they are missing what is better.

Community is special, no argument there. Being part of a group of people I can turn to when I need to is priceless. Uplifting songs and inspiring messages? Nothing wrong with those. Reflecting on one’s life? A good thing.

But without God in the picture it is a pale imitation to what we truly have. While I have nothing against Sunday Assemblies, I feel it’s like they’re settling for no-fat sugar free chocolate cheesecake instead of the real thing.

Time will tell how successful this movement is.

In the meantime, I’ll stick with my own worship, God and all.


Extracts from an article by Laura Ware in the News-Sun. She can be contacted by e-mail at Visit her website at

Guest columns are the opinion of the writer, not necessarily those of the staff of the News-Sun.