Search

Stoke Newington stand up talks about founding the nation’s first atheist church in Islington

16:36 16 February 2013

Sanderson Jones

Sanderson Jones

Archant

He certainly has the impressive facial hair of a spiritual leader. Now Sanderson Jones, a 32-year-old stand-up from Stoke Newington, is living up to his bushy beard – of which any self-respecting prophet would be proud – as the figurehead of a new atheist movement.

He is the co-founder of what many believe to be the nation’s first ever “atheist church” – if that is not a contradiction in terms.

Along with fellow comic Pippa Evans, he hosts the Sunday Assembly once a month in a former church in St Paul’s Road, Canonbury, which is now known as The Nave.

While it may sound like a wacky scheme dreamt up by a pair of confessed jokesters, in truth it is nothing of the sort.

Mr Jones simply wants to create a place where non-believers can experience the positives of religion – without the requirement of faith.

He said: “One of the things that made me think about atheism early in life was my mum dying when I was 10. It was sh**ty.

“While wrestling with my emotions, I started to think about death as a wonderful thing because it makes you concentrate on the fleetingness of life and joy in the tiniest of things.

“But I couldn’t believe in God anymore, there didn’t seem to be any evidence for it.

“I also remember going to a carol service about five or six years ago, and thinking there were lots of wonderful things about it like the singing and making people feel good.

“I first had a proper chat with Pippa about the idea on a car journey to Brighton, as we had both been thinking about some form of atheist church-style thing. I wanted to create somewhere you can just sit and have those life-is-short moments, like when you come back from a summer holiday or a New Year’s party.”

Since performing his first gig in Camden Town in 2007, Mr Jones has carved out a successful comedy career, which has taken him all the way to Australia on tour.

He has become a regular at the Edinburgh Festival and even found time to front a TV advertising campaign for Ikea.

As this stand-up success demonstrates, he clearly has a knack for bringing in audiences – no doubt a handy skill for any church leader.

He is famed for selling all the tickets to his shows by hand and has even filled the Sydney Opera House by doing so, not to mention the Union Chapel in Compton Avenue, Islington.

Nevertheless, he was still blown away when more than 200 flocked to the first assembly at the former St Paul’s Church.

“I was hoping there would be 30 or 40 people there, but suddenly the place was full,” he said.

“We had to open the balcony and people were sitting on these little benches that are not really designed for adults. We have arranged a live video feed from a nearby pub so that we don’t have to turn anyone away.”

He added: “It’s just the most exciting thing I’ve ever worked on and I can see myself doing it for the rest of my life.”

The third Sunday Assembly takes place on Sunday March 3. Because of its popularity, there will now be two sessions at 11am and 1.30pm. Visit www.sundayassembly.com for more.

0 comments

Latest Islington News Stories

16:40
Jeremy Corbyn gets shown how to fix a cracked phone screen

Jeremy Corbyn took a seat next to some Islington teenagers last week to learn how to fix cracked phone screens.

13:42
Emergency services and displaced commuters outside Caledonian Road and Barnsbury station (Picture: Sam Gelder)

A 15-year-old boy has been charged with attempted murder after a man was stabbed on the platform of Caledonian Road and Barnsbury Overground station on Thursday.

13:37
Masjid Al-risaalah mosque and Islington Islamic Centre. (Picture: Google Maps).

A man has been charged with attempted murder after a stabbing outside a mosque in Parkhurst Road last week.

12:31
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington's housing leader, back left, with Islington Council leader Richard Watts, back right, and new tenants in the council housing in King Henry's Walk, Canonbury

As the UK’s most densely populated borough, Islington is particularly exposed to London’s housing crisis. It means the council is getting creative with its locations for new houses.

16:11
Arlington Square in Islington. (Picture: Google Maps).

Two teenagers were stabbed in an Islington square on Wednesday night.

Yesterday, 09:00
Islington Gazette: August 29, 1986

Daredevil Gooners seeking a bird’s eye view of Arsenal games were warned they were dicing with death.

Sunday, August 28, 2016
Peter and Alan Arthy at the Mears Group HQ in Caledonian Road

“I was 14 and the career officer came round. He said to me ‘right you’ve got three options; making women’s handbags, a dustman or a painter and decorator’.”

Friday, August 26, 2016
Fabric nightclub in Charterhouse Street. Picture: Polly Hancock

Embattled Farringdon nightclub Fabric is “a safe haven for the supply and consumption of illegal drugs” with lax security, licensing chiefs will be told on September 6.

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read news

Competitions

You could win £15,000 to spend on either their mortgage or a deposit towards the home of their dreams

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a period of time when you simply don’t have to worry about finding the money each month to pay your mortgage? When you don’t have to put money aside from your monthly income, or worry about having to afford other essential outgoings?

Which book character do you share cleaning habits with?

Whether you have more in common with put-upon Cinderella, emotionally turbulent Jane Eyre, or easily distracted Mole, you’re sure to appreciate that one lucky winner will receive four sessions of free cleaning. Enter our quiz for your chance to win. All runners up will get £10 off their first clean when making a repeat booking.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Islington Gazette
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now