Sunday Assembly - a secular congregation that celebrates life

Sanderson Jones explains how he went from stand up comics to leading a new global social movement with Sunday Assembly.

Get new interviews in your inbox by subscribing here.

Tell us about yourself and what causes you're working on.

Hey, my name is Sanderson, though that’s probably written somewhere else on the page so you already know that. I’m co-founder and CEO of Sunday Assembly - we’re working to build secular, inclusive congregational communities across the world. The world is facing a crisis of connection, isolation and people are not reaching near their potential.

We bring people together with songs, inspiring talks and joy to start building the world as it should be.

It’s quite a switch for me because before doing this I was a stand up comic. It has been a real learning curve.

Can you sum up Sunday Assembly in one sentence?

Sunday Assembly is to congregation, as mindfulness is to meditation.

What motivated you to get started with your cause ? What were your initial goals? And how'd you come up with the idea?

My mother died when I was very young which made me so aware of the blessing, preciousness and fragility of life. Celebrating life became my philosophy and one day when I (a non-church-goer) was at a Christmas Carol Concert I thought “How great would it be to have people sing, learn, grow and build community in a way that wasn’t based on religion? In a way that everyone could join in?”.

The initial goals were to start one in London and to see how it went, to see whether it would work.

What did it take to get your cause off the ground? How has it evolved over time?

A key thing was meeting my co-founder Pippa Evans - who is amazing. We were driving to a comedy gig and realised we both wanted to do something like church but for everyone. We decided to work together and put the first one on in London. Since that moment we’ve been learning more and more about it.

How have you attracted supporters and grown your cause?

We were in the slightly unusual position of going totally viral in the first year of starting. This led to crazy growth with people signing up from all over the world. The key was finding a way for these interested people to join in. We did this by having a model that was a bit like TEDx where other people could start their own Sunday Assembly chapters.

We’re now looking at helping our almost 70 chapters across the world become stronger by developing leaders and support systems.

What's the story behind the business model and sustainability of your cause? Is there a revenue generating component to what you do, or is it mainly volunteer work?

Sunday Assembly is sustainable in a number of different ways. We were bootstrapped so have always had to be very creative. We receive donations from supporters which is part of the picture. We also put on a Sunday Assembly events for festivals like Wilderness and for corporates who want to have something a little bit different at their conference, or away day.

We’re also working with housing associations and Guy’s and St. Thomas’ charity to build community for them using our structures and techniques. There are huge health benefits being part of a community, particularly as social isolation increases as an issue.

Where can we find out more?

Want to take part in an interview about your cause?

If you want to take part, just head to the submission page and read the guidelines. Feel free to point others there as well.

Keep updated with Fantastic Activist

Want to continue the conversation? Take a look at the Fantastic Activist community.

You can follow us on Twitter @fantactivist and like us on Facebook.