While some post-Mormons lose all taste for anything religious, others very much miss the fellowship/community/inspiration/support that they once received on Sunday as LDS Church members. Over the past several years, the idea of “secular churches” that meet on Sunday has begun to arise, inspired in part by Alain de Botton’s TED talk entitled “Atheism 2.0,” along with his accompanying book entitled, “Religion for Atheists.”
As we contemplate our respective Mormon transitions, I believe that it is very important that we become aware of existing Sunday groups/initiatives. So….here are a few existing post-Mormon-friendly or secular-friendly Sunday service groups that we know about:
- Sunday Assembly: The Sunday Assembly was started in London, U.K. by two British comedians (Sanderson and Pippa). The Sunday Assembly has been operating for a few years now, and has the greatest number of worldwide congregations to date. Here is a list of them. Last I checked, many of these communities are rather fledgling, but I hear really good things about some of them. My understanding is that Sunday Assembly’s model is to only have one or two (max) Sunday services a month, and then to encourage the creation of “smoups” (small groups like book clubs, hiking clubs, dinner groups, etc.) that meet with more frequency to help build community. During the (usually) monthly Sunday service, an hour is dedicated to an inspirational sacrament-like meeting (with inspirational or educational TED-like talks and lots of singing/dancing/celebrating), and then the 2nd hour is dedicated to socializing (I think they call it “Tea and Cake” or something to that effect…U.S. folks might call it a “coffee,” meet and greet,” or a “linger longer”). A contingency of post-Mormons (Micah Nickolaisen, Steve and Chris Holbrook, Alison Udall, Christine Jeppsen Clark and others) traveled to Atlanta a few months ago to learn more about the Sunday Assembly organization, and while we really respect the group and what they are trying to do, we decided that for now, we weren’t sure that SA’s culture and franchising model would work with the post-Mormon audience. That said, we think Sunday Assembly is awesome and we are always open to learning more.
- Oasis: Oasis was started by Mike Aus (a former Christian preacher of some kind) and my new friend Helen Stringer. Oasis has at least two thriving congregations that I know of — one in Kansas City and one in Houston. It looks like DFW and Boston are trying to start groups as well. I don’t know a lot about Oasis at this point, other than that they believe that weekly Sunday services are a key to success (vs. meeting once or twice a month). I also know that Helen Stringer is a mover and a shaker — which is important for any growing community. 🙂 I will be traveling to Kansas City to visit KC Oasis the weekend of January 22nd, 2016. Can’t wait! Also, the Oasis Network has a podcast that you should check out. Finally, I would love to bring Helen Stringer to SLC/Logan soon (as schedules permit). See Time Magazine’s coverage of Oasis for more info.
- Community of Christ: Of course Community of Christ is religious/non-secular, but I have to mention them because I know that they are working very hard to be secular-friendly. I know that Salt Lake City has a thriving congregation that is welcoming to post-Mormons (under the leadership of Seth Bryant). I also know that John Hamer is doing amazing work in Toronto with his CofC congregation, and that Walnut Creek’s CofC congregation is doing great things. I have also heard that the Phoenix area might be starting a post-Mormon-friendly congregation very soon….which is very exciting.
- Unitarian Universalists: I would be remiss to not mention at least five very post-Mormon friendly UU congregations in Utah…namely: First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, South Valley UU Society, Cache Valley UU’s (up here in Logan) led by my dear friend Dr. Dave Christian, Utah Valley UU’s (attended by my good friend Tom Kimball I believe), and UU Church of Ogden (which I know pretty much nothing about, but am sure it’s awesome).
- Fellowship of Freethought: The Dallas/Fort Worth area appears to have a really thriving group called Fellowship of Freethought that is clearly worth checking out.
At some point, I think it might be useful to add a special directory to Mormon Spectrum which separates out post-Mormon-friendly Sunday services from traditional MSpectrum in-person communities — just so that people can find these groups if they are specifically seeking Sunday service-type groups.
While we are very excited about the possibility of the Community of Good (a fledgling Mormon-inspired attempt at forming secular Sunday services), the Community of Good initiative is very new, and in many areas it might make much more sense to join existing groups vs. attempting to create something from scratch — especially if there is not a critical mass of post-Mormons in your area interested in a Sunday church-like service. It is also very possible that if one of the initiatives above takes off, that Community of Good could choose to merge with one of them at a future point (as it makes sense). Finally, it is perfectly fine to consider starting a Community of Good even in areas where some of these other groups exist. We just believe that it is important to know what is around you first, and to make informed decisions accordingly.
What groups are you aware of that we have missed here? Please share in the comments below. Thanks!