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  • Writer's pictureStephen Paul

When you move to a new place

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

I imagine I’m like a lot of people, in that I’m a wonderful, unique mess of a human! I’m currently a scientist with an artistic side (although this is could be subject of dramatic deviation soon), I love to feel, experience and explore. I grew up a ridiculously normal middle-class Englishman, with a curiosity of society and improving things. Although nominally CofE Christian, I slowly came to the realisation that I had no belief in god – which was absolutely fine. Also like lots of people, as I started to try and establish myself in the world I moved around a lot, making and losing friendships and relationships along the way.

So moving to the Reading Area in 2013 was another big move away and so far, Sunday Assembly has been the most gratifying thing I’ve been involved with and something that I don’t think will leave me, wherever I end up in the future.

My Sunday Assembly experience...

I started coming along to SAR in 2015 with my partner Fiona. What encouraged me to go along was the promise of interesting and diverse talks and themes, but also the fact that there was no religious or political affiliation. The latter was important to me, I see the great community spirit of religious groups, but do not feel like I can relate to them because I cannot honestly say that I believe in god or a prescribed dogma. So when I and Fiona first came along we were just happy to see a bunch of friendly people trying to do something fun and interesting together, and that the message of Sunday Assembly was really positive and inclusive of ideas and people. There was (and thankfully, still is) a strong emphasis on enjoying cake which was also something I can get behind fully. One thing I noticed was a feeling of being more mentally buoyant after each assembly which, as a person who can get too serious and critical, experiencing that was enlightening, inspiring and relaxing. Even when there’s a serious theme the singing, games and getting together with people makes the serious – fun.

It’s weird I can’t really remember the time when I started to become more involved, but I think this is because I just started to get know the regular people slowly and realising that they all put a lot of effort into it and they need the help. I like chatting with people so becoming a welcomer was a fairly natural way to start helping out. People who I got to know had become friends and I realised that Sunday Assembly provided me and everyone more than a lot of other social groups partly because there is no pressure, nor any particular emphasis except perhaps the desire to share space and experiences together as a loose, caring community of diverse personalities.

I took on the role of organising the welcoming for the assembly and have been part of the committee for a quite a while now. I’ve also tried to stand up and host an event and organise some social events – which was a nerve-racking but novel experience which was cool in the end. The socials have been a great way to get to know people better I’d met on the assembly days, and have always been fun and easy going. I personally like to get out into nature and moving my body, so the Bike ride from Guildford to Brighton (with some people from the London SA) and the “Field Called Wonder” camping weekend are my personal highlights. It also inspired me to organise walking socials which are has been really good fun and I think gave me some confidence that I can organise something successful and provide something positive for other people.

More recently I also attended the Sunday Assembly 2018 International Conference in Edinburgh. Meeting people from around the globe with a shared project of providing something positive in their local world was inspiring. I learned a lot from hearing all the different experiences, challenges and approaches, and made me realise that the spirit of Sunday Assembly is a force for good in a complicated and diverse world, with its unique flexibility to encourage the good in individual working together.

But mostly it’s just fun to come along and enjoy the show every month.

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