Talks, wonderings, singing, community is what you will find at Sunday Assembly, a non denominational celebration which aims to reconnect in our disconnected world.
11am on a Sunday is not famed for being a peak of joy at a festival. So I was more than a little surprised to be feeling quite so alive at that very moment during Latitude. And all it took was a selection of cathartic cheesy karaoke tunes, a Jesus-like charming leader and some bold ideas about how I can improve my life.
Sunday Assembly drew in a diverse crowd. Teenagers covered in yesterday’s glitter and temporary tattoos, middle aged men who were pining for a greater sense of community connection, and young children who were as riveted as the rest of us. I can’t imagine a festival goer who isn’t into community, connection, and the desire to appreciate life so it’s not surprising that Sunday Assembly feels so compatible with Latitude.
The messiah-esque front man is atheist and former comedian, Sanderson Jones. Sanderson is basically charisma and skin. He is the first to admit that he looks like an Arian folk singer. He is amusingly self-deprecating, confessing that he has been deemed as “officially unsexy” by the British government (yet another reason why we shouldn’t trust the government – he is actually a little bit sexy). Despite his long flaxen flowing beard and hair, he reassures us that Sunday Assembly is “not a cult”. Adding as an afterthought, “but I would say that, wouldn’t I?” He is doggedly committed to the idea of celebrating life. His joy of life is immediately infectious, kicking off the show by getting the crowd to blast Toto’s “Africa” from the bottom of our lungs.
Sunday Assembly was set up by Sanderson about 6 years ago in London. It wasn’t long before 70 more chapters sprouted up around the world. In giant font projected behind him, he tells us that society is experiencing a “CRISIS OF MEANING AND BELONGING”. Although not religious, he couldn’t help but notice that there is so much that church gets right: community, purpose, shared identity, connecting to something bigger than yourself. Sanderson does away with the metaphysical and instead celebrates the wonder of how humans can be presently conscious with each other right now.
The crowd are hungover and sleep deprived – a tough audience when dealing with such existential material. But each idea is offset with playfulness, whimsy and hilarity. By the end of the show, we are keenly talking to each other about how we can make the most of our short time on this planet.
I left feeling invigorated and cheered, optimistic that connection and joie de vivre doesn’t have to be relegated to the bounds of this weekend. And what’s so uncool about joining a cult anyway?