A godless church may seem to some as an oxymoron, but it has become a reality as the oldest church in Leeds opens its doors for an atheist congregation.
The Sunday Assembly Leeds is a non-profit organisation which has chosen to put away religion but still keep the traditions of song and sermons.
Originally starting in London last January it was created by two comedians, Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans.
After success in the capital they have now launched their movement worldwide in their ‘40 days and 40 nights tour’, which will be opening assemblies in the UK, including Leeds, Ireland, US, Canada and Australia. Michelle Beckett, 40 from Harrogate is one of the Leeds’ assembly organisers. She said: “We have had a huge response so far. We have already had over 100 people sign up for the assembly. We’d like to take all of the good bits out of church, and leave the religious stuff behind.
“It’s a shame that people who have no faith do not know the feeling of belonging that comes with religion, that’s why we are doing this.”
She added: “The structure is the same as church, you will have talks, songs and a sense of community. The London assemblies have now started to sprout charity works and community book groups.”
Without the use of religious hymns and a religious text, the group uses inspirational talks and pop songs, such as Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now and Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
The congregation will start at St John the Evangelist church Tuesday, October 29 and people of any belief or background can join in. The congregation in Leeds will meet once a month after the initial launch, meeting every month on a Sunday.
St John the Evangelist Church is the oldest in Leeds, dating back to 1634, and was made redundant by the Church of England in 1977.
Ms Beckett added: “Old churches are a part of England’s history and as they become redundant, we’d like to see them keep being used to bring communities together, just without the supernatural or hierarchical bits that many don’t believe in anymore. As it is the oldest church in Leeds it seemed fitting that a new movement started there.”