The Musings 28
Read: Acts 2: 42-47
Church is diverse. This diversity can occur because of one race, culture and the way we express our faith. However, what unites the diversity in the church is its allegiance to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. But look at the new "church" that has been formed in London. The people who long to come to the church has no relationship nor do they express their allegiance to Lord Jesus Christ on the contrary they claim they want to be a part of a community where you don't have to put God in it. But they want to be a "Church". Thus, last Sunday in London the members of first Atheist Church gathered at a place called The Nave, which was formerly a church, now turned into a performance space. This is in place called Islington, in North London. The founders of this unique atheist church are two comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans. This church is called as "The Sunday Assembly". They meet on the first Sunday of every month. In fact in the first month of January, when the news was announced about 200 people joined for the assembly, while this month when they met again, around 300 people turned up, forcing the organizers to send those people who did not get a seat, to a nearby bar so that they can view the live proceedings on a TV. The whole concept of Sanderson and Pippa Evans was basically to bring people together, who are loosing their religious faith, to be connected together as a community. Though the congregation comprises of non believers the focus of the Sunday Assembly is in no way to demean people of other faith. They have focus each time they meet together. The focus of this month assembly was "to live better, help often, and wonder more". The way they conducted the assembly was also something like that happens in the church. The assembly began with band led by Pippa Evans. Songs like Stevie Wonder's superstition was some of the songs that they sang. Following this there as talk by a guest speaker who spoke on the theme of wonder. Wonder about why the galaxy exist or why does human being exist. The existence of all these things is related to matter. He also explained about the discovery of Higgs Boson, the so called God's Particle. After the talk, the focus was once again was on singing and fellowship. One of the refrains from the people who attended this atheist church was that they were missing the music and the community experience that they had during their childhood as they attended church. This was also a complaint that Jones also mentioned and he wanted the singing and the feeling of community to be rediscovered again. Next time they meet they wanted to focus on the theme "Lend a Hand". This theme has been selected so that the people who come to attend the atheist church will lend a helping hand to make the world a better place. The leaders of the atheist church feels that it is the commitment to the society that is actually bringing more and more people to the Sunday assembly. Both Jones and Evans are happy at the success of the formation of atheist church or the Sunday assembly and they would want to start an additional Sunday also in the near future and also set up a You Tube channel so that people around the world can view the Sunday assembly. One of the truths that we can learn as to why people are flocking to such diverse group of community is that they miss the fellowship, the feeling of community and the joy of singing. They miss the feeling that faith is all about expressing ones faith in the community. Looking at the Sunday assembly or the atheist church, what is it that we who belong to a Church can incorporate or what are the corrections that we need to make in the way we express our faith.
It is in Acts you find the beginning of early church. In the early chapters in Acts you find some unique features about the members of the church. In Acts 2: 42-47, you find the life style of the believers of the early church. What is it that connected the believers in the early church and does these connection still unite or exist in the church today?. The unifying force of all the believers to come together was their new found faith in Jesus Christ. It was their response to the message of the gospel that united the believers together. [Acts 2:41]. I think what the Sunday assembly in London is missing is the relationship with Jesus Christ. Church becomes a church only when people are united and are committed to Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ is absent or if the people who belong either to Atheist Church or the Marthoma Church do not have a relationship or commitment to Jesus Christ then, the gathering that you have on Sunday is not a community of believers nor the church it could be termed just an assembly or a social club. I think many of the church's today has degenerated into another social club and that is where we members of both the Marthoma Church and also the Atheist Church needs to be aware and consciously change, so that church does not degenerate into another social club but to a fellowship of believers, who have a commitment to Jesus Christ. Another unique aspect that you find in the early church was that they always experienced joy and a sense of fellowship as they met in different homes. They were also filled with a sense of wonder with the miracles that happened in the lives of people [something similar to the theme of wonder that was expounded at the atheist church]. They also praised God with singing and psalms and they consciously saw to it that the faith that they practiced was witnessed in their both personal life and corporate life. In Acts 2: 45, we find that they sold everything and gave to others according to their need. Here is a community of early believers who have an enthusiasm and joy as they met together to worship. Here is a group of believers who wanted the community to be helped and wanted the community to know that they their new found faith is not something that is very exclusive type of meeting and worship but on the contrary living out the faith in the community. I think one of the aspects that drives people out of the church especially the young people is that today when we meet on Sunday's , for may people it is more of a social obligation rather an set apart time to express our commitment or renew our commitment to our Lord, expressed by participating in worship. Moreover even while participating in worship we do not build up the feeling of community or fellowship and more than that, nor are we concerned on how to make our worship service meaningful, and joyous. Moreover our Christian commitment is something that we feel we should show only on Sunday's without its expression in our community. As more and more people seek new definitions about church, and are getting disillusioned, let us a community of believers bring about the desired changes in our fellowship and in our concept of worship so that church truly reflects the joy and fellowship that the believers should truly have. Otherwise don't be surprised if you find another atheist church coming in your neighborhood.Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla