Community member Nicole Holgate, on our 5th Birthday gathering!
Last week I lay awake at 3am thinking about what the future of our planet looked like. The finite nature of existence felt uncomfortably close on a Wednesday in January.
But I had a reason to endure it, at least until the weekend, for Sunday Assembly's fifth birthday. It’s been five years since Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans launched a 'secular gathering that celebrates life' in London. From that inaugural Sunday in January 2013, a movement grew, and now 55 different chapters meet in eight countries around the world.
It's a cold, bright morning, and a crowd fills Conway Hall to capacity to celebrate the occasion. Sanderson is visibly proud as he welcomes both speakers and audience, and introduces the birthday event’s theme, 'Light in the Darkness'.
As usual, we kick off with singing two power ballads, led by the Assembly band and choir. This is followed by poet Tolu Agbelusi performing two short, powerful pieces. Her poetry captures a passion and spirit we may all wish to embody every day, but sometimes feel too weak to. But, as she puts it, we are none of us alone; we are made of everything that led to where we are now, and we have that power behind us.
“You are the light of the world.
Now for the main speaker. A regular of the TV and stand-up circuit, Rufus Hound may be part of the reason that the hall is so rammed this morning.
After some preamble about Christmas with his family, and showing off a spectacular jumper he received, he abruptly yanks us back to the beginning of the Universe. From the beginning of time to the present day, through a set of seemingly impossible circumstances, we may be the only conscious beings here. The only part of the Universe capable of self-aware thought. Can we each rise to the incredible opportunity we have been given?
Once we're drawn in by this flattering idea, Rufus challenges some of our community by telling us that we need God. He took part of our charter “We have no set texts so we can make use of wisdom from all sources.” and used a religious text or two to quote that, 'God is love, and love overcomes fear'.
The point: we have a very short time to be here, so we must embrace it fully, instead of succumbing to the paralysis of fear. Whatever we need to overcome that fear - faith, love, power ballads, unicorns - is up to us.
So for instance, if you are afraid of the dark, it only takes one point of light, like a birthday candle, to dispel it. And when you have a hall filled with 400 people determined to bring more light to the world, amazing things can happen.
Five years ago, Sunday Assembly began to bring people together with love and light, or at the very least ideas that will help you when you are fretting about the planet at 3am on a Wednesday. Who knows what the next five years will hold?
Images by Andrew John Simpson