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Volunteering for Sunday Assembly – Why I do it.

This blog was written by the wonderful Roger Cawkwell after we were asked why we thought it ok to not pay musicians. FYI – No one gets paid at Sunday Assembly – it is entirely run on love and support and passion. Which is nice!

As an atheist, one beginning to come out of near life-long isolation from other atheists (people generally just don’t say…), I was very interested when I heard about a new meeting called The Sunday Assembly. I attended the first session (got just about the last seat in the house) and have been to most of the others since. Part of the morning consists of some group singalongs (“community karaoke”?) but with old pop songs rather than hymns.

As a professional musician at first I found the experience rather strange but warmed to it and went up uninvited to offer at first some advice and later to volunteer my services. At the time of writing I’ve played in the last two assemblies and enjoyed the gigs, struggling with usually not enough time to rehearse and, in my case, occasional unfamiliarity with the original material. My impression is that some of the “congregation” (for want of a better word) also found the group singing a bit strange or even difficult at first but enthusiasm seems to have grown and there was a very appreciative reception to our latest efforts, flawed though they might have been.

None of the musicians are paid – we’re doing it for love, not money, so there is a high degree of commitment. Most of the other musicians are keen amateurs (and play very well) whereas I, despite having just passed 65, still earn a living though music – a mixture of teaching, conducting and writing. I realised a couple of years ago that in fact I’m doing what a lot of retired people do, playing music just for fun, because I can earn enough to get by and still have lots of free time.

I’ve known colleagues who have done paid gigs for churches & they’ve been just that – gigs, no commitment to the service, just play the notes or sing the words, collect the cheque and go home. It’s always seemed a little odd to me & nothing I’ve ever wanted to do, so it’s great to have the opportunity to make a contribution in this way to something I believe in. Or don’t, rather.