After trawling the internet for potential venues we found nearly 100 places of worship in Southend. We were struck by two things. Firstly, Southend has a proud Christian tradition; made clear by the sheer number of churches that were built by the Victorians and Edwardians. Secondly, it was evident that many of these places had been sold off, had small congregations or were not even contactable through the internet; a sign that no young people were driving them forwards.
Our society is suffering withdrawal symptoms; the come-down from a 200-year binge on orthodox religion that started with the industrial revolution. While new ideas like social media, celebrity and humanism have all flourished in recent times, none of them fill the ‘hole’ left by the churches. These ‘modern’ concepts do not engage the feeling, believing, hoping, yearning and wondering side of human nature. In short, they ignore the human ‘spirit’. Towns like Southend were not built by engineers or politicians, they grew from the passion, generosity, inspiration and love of a community of people who wanted to live better, help often and wonder more. Those people had ‘churches’ to build that ‘spirit’ but with the precipitous decline of religion in this area, we don’t… until now.
Everyone has a desire to lead a better life, help others and appreciate the life they have but most of us need some encouragement to do something about it. We need a structure, some leaders and a place to gather. We also need an excuse to allow ourselves to get to know ‘strangers’.
Sunday Assembly is the ‘excuse’ everyone is looking for. It is a neat little package that gives us an opportunity to get together, a safe place to sing out loud, a reason to dwell on the wisdom of the ages and permission to open ourselves up to trust each other, once again. There can be only one outcome when groups of well-meaning people come together: great things happen for them, their friends, families and communities. We can have our ‘godless congregation’ and everyone is welcome.
We want to create Sunday Assembly Southend to bring the energy of the human ‘spirit’ back to this area. Sunday Assembly is not an end in itself but a platform from which so much will grow. The people who live here – an area flowing with creative talent, wealth, ideas and energy – have so much to offer to each other and we want to release that potential. Our message is simple; if you want to be part of a network of people who make things happen in their community, society, business, charity or friendship group, come and be part of Sunday Assembly Southend.
Rob and Elliot
Part of our ongoing series of posts from folk who want to start their own Sunday Assemblies.