Sunday Assembly: Wendy's story
Wendy, 74, lives in Woodley and has been a regular at Sunday Assembly since 2016. She first discovered it on the website Streetlife (now Nextdoor) in the era when assemblies were held at the Purple Turtle. “I was really nervous the first time I came,” she tells me. “But I found that everyone was so lovely and welcoming – especially Eddie.”
Wendy was finding her feet at this time having recently become widowed. “I didn’t stay behind to chat the first couple of times, but when I finally did, I enjoyed it much more. I got friendly with Rachel and started helping her with welcoming people – I really liked doing that.”
One of the things she finds most attractive about Sunday Assembly is the variety of people she meets there. “Generally they are quite different from the type of folk I usually mix with - some are quite way out! I like the mixed age group and I get to meet children again.”
In her married life, Wendy feels she didn’t do many things that were ‘different’. “Danny and I were a bit fuddy duddy really. We’d do trips to the seaside sometimes, or visit family.”
Wendy was social secretary of Woodley Women’s Club for several years arranging day trips and holidays. Danny would drive her to the various venues to check them out. This was a lot of fun and they got to meet other group organisers. Not being a confident driver herself it became too difficult to continue with the job alone after his death.
I tell her that I can hardly imagine how awful she must feel at losing her partner. “It’s his company I miss most. I don’t like being home on my own all the time.”
Wendy has been finding plenty of new things to do in the last few years. She belongs to a group called Way Up – a sister group to WAY (Widowed and Young) – for the over 50s. This is a support group that focuses on rebuilding lives, finding friendships and rediscovering happiness. Then there are the U3A MOTO (members on their own) groups, which organise outings to a variety of places and activities. She’s also a member of the local WI and she sings in the Oddfellows choir.
I ask her if religion has ever featured in her life, and she tells me that she used to be a Jehovah’s Witness. “This was when I was in my early 20s when my children were babies”, she says. “I remained for about 20 years until one day I realised that although I loved the people and the social side, I no longer believed the message. The decision to leave was one of the hardest I ever made. It was like a bereavement.”
What are the things she likes best about Sunday Assembly? “I’m not really much of a one for talks,” she says with a laugh. “It’s the before and after bits I like best, when you get a chance to chat to people - and singing along with the band.” She’s full of praise for the band. “Everyone is so talented and generous with their time. Amy on her saxophone is adorable, and I just love Kate and Sam’s singing.”
And the cakes? She bursts out laughing. “That depends whose cakes you’re eating!” She’s referring to her recent forays into vegan baking. Despite the self-deprecating jokes she makes about her creations, her carrot cake and mushroom rolls have been favourites at the after-assembly refreshments for several months.
“I 100% enjoy the assembly and look forward to it every month,” she says as we finish our coffee. “I don’t understand why it’s so hard to get more people to come.”
We discuss the possible reasons. That people get the wrong idea of what it’s about. They assume it’s religious or some kind of a cult despite it being very much not.
And that’s one of the reasons we’re doing this series of interviews – to show what Sunday Assembly means to the people who enjoy it. Why not be more like Wendy, overcome your reservations and give it a try?