Welcome to a new decade! I’m Ross Llewallyn, president of Sunday Assembly Atlanta, and each year I like to post an update on the status of the community and progress made towards goals I and the board set out to accomplish.
I love looking back at a year of Sunday Assembly activity and being joyfully overwhelmed by all that we’ve created, accomplished, grown, and enjoyed.
We had assemblies featuring the return of our favorite climate scientist, a visiting Satanic Temple leader, a panel discussion on remembering Atlanta’s fraught history with race, the creation of a community map showing our community’s connections abroad, an honoring of the loss of a member’s mother, and the story of a courageous organ donor.
We gave our time and energy to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Trees Atlanta, and emerged to help a local bookstore with its move. We continue to build relationships with our community in this way.
Volunteers stretched themselves, with several folks leading or co-leading assemblies for the first time (which is amazing!), Brandon restarting our bulletin and newsletter, and our leadership visiting Nashville for the #ReAssembly conference. Half of this year we were without Lea and Jared, who are precious volunteers, but they returned from their months-long trip and let us form an assembly around it!
At the end of this year, SAA said goodbye to our treasurer, Randall Cumbaa, and welcomed Jared Millet as a new board member and Randall’s replacement as treasurer. Randall kept us in-line and prompted our creation of a solid budget, which I am grateful for.
Jared has also taken on band leadership responsibilities. The band continues to be an amazing “small group” that serves as a cornerstone of the fun of our assemblies. February’s assembly will mark 4 years of its existence, and it’s been amazing to be a part of it through nearly every performance and line-up. I’m grateful to Ben, Ray, Chris, Dianne, Dan, Tim, Jessale, Tre, Micha, Anna, Jared, and of course all the folks who have created music with us in 2019 and through the years. We even did an extra performance outside of assemblies this year at the Met!
We created many unique events and fostered bonds that I hope last a long time. A big part of SAA are our small group events, which have certainly changed over time. But while our small groups come and go with member’s passions and interest, I am excited that my simple “SA 101 Coffee Talk” series has been a proven way for folks to learn about our community, for assemblers to hang out, or just get out of the house on a Sunday. “Talking TED” similarly served that purpose and fostered great conversation.
Finally, our Secular Celebration on Xmas Day was a great success, gathering many local groups together on the holiday for music, a HumanLight ceremony, and of course a lovely dinner.
Thank you so much to the dozens of volunteers that make any of this possible. It’s not just bringing food for the potluck, moving chairs, or speaking on stage; it’s the behind-the-scenes planning, inviting speakers and talking with other groups, and so much more that isn’t always seen. Know that I see it, as do many others.
So after all that wonderful 2019, how did it match up to our goals? Last year, my blog post focused on a theme of Help Often. Here were the goals, and my assessment of how we did!
- 〰️ Train a new person each assembly this year to contribute to the event
- 3 different assemblies in first half of 2019 featured a new co-MC or new co-Assembly Lead (AL). Several other assemblies had new volunteers playing important roles in planning, speaking, potluck, and more, but we didn’t fully commit to this.
- ✘ Foster at least one new small group series and support existing ones
- Sunday Assembly 101 Coffee Talk continues to be simple and successful, but our meditation groups have largely stopped, as did Talking TED and Secular Support Group. Wonder Club was not consistent and does not have an owner.
- ✔ Continue partnerships with allied organizations
- The Secular Celebration continues to be a great example of this, as was our panel discussion and event with the Fulton County Remembrance Coalition (FCRC).
- 〰️ Engage our digital community through more regular posts and communications
- Towards the end of the year, this happened more, and we have a volunteer ready to do this more next year. We also began advertising on Facebook again, and that seems to be quite positive!
- 〰️ Confirm our code of conduct and reinforce accessibility notices
- Marla and I have a draft of this that requires thinking through and writing one more key section. I’m sorry to say that this is still not complete, but significant work was done.
- ✔ Maintain our commitment to diversity and inclusion in our assembly speaker and event subject choices
- We continue to highlight marginalized or unheard voices in our assemblies, including speakers sharing stories of Africa and South America. We lacked an LGBTQ+ focus, however.
- ✔ Actively contribute to efforts to reshape a parent organization for American assemblies
- At the Nashville #ReAssembly conference, and in the months before it, I did significant work contributing to the restructure of Sunday Assembly in America in order to make it representative of assemblies in the US. The work is not complete, but SA Atlanta has a key role.
This year’s goals will be divided into core and stretch goals, reflecting the priority of some essential items and acknowledging the unpredictability of our all-volunteer support structure.
- Promote and provide quality assembly childcare for 9 months, tracking use and satisfaction
- Complete and have leadership sign the code of conduct, which will include accessibility considerations
- For each assembly, encourage SAA Heroes (committed volunteers list) to help plan with specific asks
- Maintain a new (or renewed) social, support, or discussion small group
- Consistently advertise assemblies or other events and track effectiveness
- Attend a local conference or festival to meet more of our community
- Restore our supplies of swag materials (stickers, magnets, shirts, tokens)
- Encourage our community to vote thoughtfully
- Provide a secular humanist presence (invocation, for example) at a local government function
These goals attract and respect current or potential families; encourage volunteers to help where possible to build our future; get our name and ideas out into the broader world, and keep excitement alive with fun events.
I choose to summarize these with the theme of Growth, aiming to expand our membership, foster stronger volunteer support, and develop connections with new events.
I simply cannot meet these goals alone, and neither can the tireless board at SAA. If you’re checking us out for the first time, come to occasional events, or already have a role in volunteering, consider what our values mean to you, and whether you want to grow this community with us in 2020. These goals are met with everyone’s support.
I’m looking forward to an amazing 2020.