It's said the devil has the best tunes but maybe they just mean atheists. The nearly 300 people who gathered at a former church in north London this weekend opened their Sunday Assembly with a full-throated rendition of the Queen karaoke classic Don’t Stop Me Now, with its chorus “Yes I’m having a good time/I don’t wanna stop at all”. Whatever your religious stance you have to admit that sounds more fun than miming I Vow To Thee My Country.
As Justin Welby takes office as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, the average Sunday attendance in each of the Church of England’s 16,000 churches is 58 and falling. But at the former St Paul’s Church in the muesli-eating north London enclave of Stoke Newington the godless congregation that meets on the first Sunday of every month is going from strength to strength.
“This was only our second service,” says Sanderson Jones, the atheist comedian who co-hosts the event. “The first service had about 200 to 250 people. This one had 250 plus 35 who couldn’t fit in so they watched from a pub. Next month we’ll be having a morning and afternoon service. It should let people who have to travel get there easily – as well as the hungover.”