Apparently, atheists are yearning for their crack at potluck dinners and picnics: There's no church in the traditional sense, and no steeple, but what opened its doors in Rochester, NY, this past Sunday is no less than an atheist church. Dubbed the Sunday Assembly, the group skipped the pastor and the choir and got the church party started with what the Democrat and Chronicle calls "an upbeat, rock band rendition of Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror.'" In the hourlong, laid-back service that followed, the group of 50 or so congregants focused on the theme of "wonder" via pop songs and a speech by a local education professor.
A local organizer calls the godless church movement "radically inclusive," and it is indeed burgeoning: The Rochester group was one of 30-some chapters of the Sunday Assembly to launch over the weekend; founded in 2013, they now number 58 worldwide. The Guardian sent a reporter to the launch in Cleveland, and has video of the event here. For most congregants, it's about a missing sense of belonging. "She grew up pretty religious," says one man who drove 80 miles with his wife to attend the Rochester event. "She misses the community, but not the church." (A New York faction of the Sunday Assembly, did, however, undergo a pretty bitter breakup from the London founders earlier this year.)