This book draws on a study of the Sunday Assembly- a "godless congregation"- to reflect on how the Church might better deal with suffering, lament and theodicy. Against a backdrop of a shifting attitudes towards religion, humans are now better connected than ever before. It is no exaggeration to suggest that we carry the suffering of the world in our pockets. In the midst of these intersecting issues, the Sunday Assembly provides insight into how meaning-making in times of trauma and crisis is changing.
Drawing on practical theology and using ethnographic tools of investigation, this book includes findings from interviews and observation with the Sunday Assembly in London and Edinburgh. It explores the Sunday Assembly’s philosophy of "celebrating life," and what this means in practice. At times, this emphasis on celebration can result in situations where suffering is "passed over," or only briefly acknowledged. In response, this book considers a similar tendency within white Protestant churches to avoid explicit discussion of difficult issues.
This book challenges churches to consider how they might resist the avoidance of suffering through the practice of lament.The insights provided by this book will be of particular interest to scholars of Religious Studies, Practical Theology, Secularism and Atheism/Non-religion.
1 Theological roots: The evils of theodicy
2 Temperate atheism: The philosophical basis of the Sunday Assembly
3 "Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More": The Sunday Assembly
4 The theologian and the atheist church: Fieldwork at the Sunday Assembly
5 "Celebrating life, passing over suffering": How the Sunday Assembly responds to adversity
6 "Pause a while": Middle space, Holy Saturday, and theological "holding" of suffering
7 Creating a culture of lament: How the Church can resist "passing over" suffering
Theological reflection on the church’s practice is now recognised as a significant element in theological studies in the academy and seminary. Routledge's series in practical, pastoral and empirical theology seeks to foster this resurgence of interest and encourage new developments in practical and applied aspects of theology worldwide. This timely series draws together a wide range of disciplinary approaches and empirical studies to embrace contemporary developments including: the expansion of research in empirical theology, psychological theology, ministry studies, public theology, Christian education and faith development; key issues of contemporary society such as health, ethics and the environment; and more traditional areas of concern such as pastoral care and counselling.