30 June 2013

Atheist church?

So many who long for God by bobmendo
So many who long for God, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

Robbie Buck of the ABC Radio National presented an interview with Pippa Evans, comedian based in Melbourne, of the Sunday Assembly, a self-described "part-atheist church." (their website)

Here's Pippa speaking last month at their monthly gathering. image

by Photographer Dan Kerr

I have no problem with people assembling to share stories, to sing, to learn, to discuss...for whatever reason. Good on 'em! But I'm not thrilled with the idea of the word church being used for it. Church has come to mean 'sacred assembly' and a place where God is honored, and Y'shua is held in high praise. Songs are directed to Him. Prayers are sent to God. Sermon after sermon discuss what that the Almighty wants for our planet.
To have an 'atheist' church is like having a vegetarian for meat. It's like finding a mad Collingwood supporter wearing red and white when the Magpies play us at the SCG. That simply wouldn't happen. Nor should it.

A church is a church. I found it very odd when I first came to Australia in 1998, to find synagogues listed in the yellow pages directory under "Churches." If the term had been religious buildings, fair enough. But to use 'church' for such an appellation is to miss a lot of Jewish life.

My friend is an Anglican and has lived 85 years in Australia. I told him of a Jewish man with whom I was discussing the truths of the Bible, and he asked me "What is his Christian name?" I stared almost blankly. "What? He is Jewish. He has no Christian name," I replied. "Ah," said my friend, "I meant his first name." Of course, the common misuse of 'Christian' back in my friend's day carries over to a mostly-non-Christian country, and modern parlance still.

The Sunday assembly website says they have a three-fold purpose: "It’s a service for anyone who wants to live better, help often and wonder more." There are many Christian churches today, worldwide where the Gospel is so hidden that this triptych could well apply to them! But apart from the Gospel-light churches, I'm especially hopeful for the SA people. Let me explain.

They are establishing a habit (albeit monthly in Melbourne so far) of Sunday morning gatherings. That's a good habit. They are breaking the 'me alone' habit of so many who isolate especially on weekends, and thus helping us get our of ourselves. And the last reason (for now) that I'm happy is their use of 'wonder.'

I'm not thinking of the term evidenced in this photo of the golfers who wonder where the ball went.
Or whether the boy will ring the girl for the dance Saturday night.

No rather, I'm thinking of musing and wonderment. What you do when you see Niagara Falls or other natural wonders of the world. Wonder is good, as it points us to the Creator of Wonder, the God of Wonder, beyond all majesty.

That's what the HIllsong people are singing about in the top photo. That's what I'm hopeful for the people at Sunday assembly. They will meet on Sundays and sing and wonder. After a while, the focus and terminus of wonder will be in view. And that will be Y'shua. And they will have to continue their habit and wonder about HIm. Don't you reckon?

So let me ask you, "Who do you think Jesus is?" Don't you wonder about that one?


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Their website: http://sundayassembly.com/

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