(The following is a blog-post form of a short presentation I gave at January’s gathering.)
For those who have attended one of our monthly Sunday Assemblies, you’re probably familiar with the basic concept of our network of organizations. We’re a secular community without deity, dogma, or doctrine, striving to help everyone Live Better, Help Often, and Wonder More in this one life we know we have.
I think we’re overdue for a little more clarification of what those mantras really mean.
At an organizer meeting late last year, a conversation with a new volunteer sparked a realization in me. He shared that Sunday Assembly Atlanta appeared to be existing month-to-month, without broadcasting a larger vision for the organization, the community, and beyond.
This was understandable. We ended 2017 with fewer organizers than we started, and extra resources and energy were increasingly put into maintaining the big monthly gatherings that are our namesake.
Through the fall we did interview our members, asking what was important to many of you about SAA. We synthesized your answers and in October shared a values statement that captured what was special about our community and where we were going:
We are a community,
Creating nurturing spaces that are secular humanist, respectful, and without dogma.
Celebrating life, curiosity, and growing together.
Valuing evidence-based, compassionate dialogue and action.
Supporting one another in learning, living our best lives, and helping often.
Inviting everyone to contribute.
Welcoming all who welcome all!
Together we grow:
Our connection to cultivate authentic, deep relationships and build community.
Our compassion to strengthen our community and help often everywhere.
Our perspectives to expand our minds and wonder more.
Our creativity to self-actualize and share our passions with others.
Our empathy to cultivate safe spaces where we can all live better.
Until now this product of your and our hard work hasn’t appeared in a permanent, public place. Even though the organizing team has been thinking long-term, we haven’t shared it often enough with you. Secular community is a new concept, and we’re learning what’s so valuable about it as we go along, every day. That also means that sharing our progress, our accomplishments, and our goals is all the more important.
So I want to go steps further: what does a community with these values look like, and how do we get there? I’ve created five points that capture my vision for SAA:
- A permanent space where events can be held and support provided to members and other communities and people
- An atmosphere of welcoming and possibility, where diverse people want to come and readily know how to attend, volunteer, and organize events big and small
- A place for learning, where Life Lab encompasses a variety of subjects and enriches lives for both teacher and learner
- A fostering of imagination as we all forge a path through life’s journey in a secular way
- A presence on the city, state, and even national stage promoting our values
I’ve also developed a series of concrete actions that get us closer to our goal. I’ve wrapped these around the idea of Visibility, which I’m considering a recurring theme for the year of 2018. We want to celebrate those within our community, show broader populations who we are, and create spaces that encourage everyone to come:
- Make secular humanist communities and people more prominent:
- Grow in number through new advertising and word-of-mouth
- Connect more often with other local groups by communicating high-profile or joint events
- Hold a voter drive event
- Project our safe, compassionate, welcoming space:
- Create a code of conduct and post our values statement online
- Be consistent in our childcare offerings
- Require accessibility notes in all event descriptions
- Celebrate those within the community:
- Highlight volunteers’ work more regularly
- Show the diverse people in our community within our event descriptions and social media
- Reflect our diversity in who is on stage at assemblies and their subject matter
- Better contextualize organizational and financial needs:
- Create obvious and clear pathways to start new small groups or volunteer
- Better explain the purpose of donating during collection
- Prompt opportunities for giving at small group events
This is my plan for this year. It’s not a static set of goals, and it may evolve as times goes on. I want to plant some flags, make ourselves accountable, and poke our heads up from our normal volunteering routine to make positive motions for the future. I hope that you’ll help us make this happen (email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re not sure how!) and that you’re looking forward to what’s to come.