“Sunday Assembly,” Chapel Hill’s Un-Church, Marks One Year

On the second Sunday of every month, dozens of folks gather in Carrboro’s ArtsCenter for a church service. There’s singing, there’s fellowship, there are teachings and life lessons and fun and community and togetherness and humanity.

Only one thing is missing: the religion.

It’s called Sunday Assembly Chapel Hill – “all of the fun and community of church, but without the religion” – and it’s part of a growing movement worldwide. The “Sunday Assembly” idea originated in London in January 2013, the brainchild of British comedians Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones – and in less than two years it’s taken off on both sides of the Atlantic. Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s Sunday Assembly, first organized this past January, is one of several dozen Sunday Assemblies that meet regularly across the country.

It’s open to everyone, religious, agnostic and atheistic alike. There’s a band playing popular songs and a ‘sermon’ from a different guest speaker every time. The community works with non-profits like Book Harvest and the Food Bank of Durham – and they serve as a support network for each other too. (Their motto is “Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More.”)

Kevin and Heather Klein are two of the co-organizers of Sunday Assembly Chapel Hill. They stopped by WCHL this week and spoke with Aaron Keck.


Sunday Assembly Chapel Hill meets at the ArtsCenter West End at 10:30 a.m. on the second Sunday of every month. Everyone is welcome. The next meeting is this Sunday, December 13 – they’re celebrating Solstice, with secular Christmas carols and a potluck. On January 10, they’ll celebrate their one-year anniversary in Chapel Hill-Carrboro.

Get more info at SundayAssemblyChapelHill.org, or like them on Facebook.


Stroman On Sports: If God Is Not A Tar Heel

It was another good weekend for UNC athletics, as the Carolina men’s soccer, women’s soccer, field hockey and volleyball teams all posted impressive wins alongside the football team’s shellacking of Illinois. Meanwhile, the national headlines were abuzz with the latest flap between NFL quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers: Rodgers zinged Wilson’s penchant for praising God after wins after his Packers beat Wilson’s Seahawks.

(Not in the national headlines: the ongoing WNBA playoffs. Which raises its own set of questions.)

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School professor and sports analyst Deborah Stroman joined Aaron Keck on WCHL Monday to talk about these issues.


Searching for the real Black Beard and the real Jesus

What does North Carolina coastal historian Kevin Dufuss have in common with New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman?

If you asked them, each  might tell you he is a truth seeker about a man whose life is shrouded in myth.

In his book, “The Last Days of Black Beard the Pirate,” Dufuss challenges some fundamental beliefs about the pirate who was killed in the waters off Ocracoke Island on November 22, 1718.

Meanwhile, in a series of bestselling books, Ehrman, a professor of religious studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, has challenged the fundamental beliefs of many Christians about Jesus of Nazareth.

Dufuss, originally looking to find out more about the pirate whose exploits and life and death are an important part of North Carolina lore, found that much of which we “know” about Black Beard has factual basis. At the end of his book, he writes, “The Black Beard I have come to know through my research turned out to be entirely unlike the historical figure so familiar to the world. My newly perceived image of the authentic pirate captain is nothing like the man celebrated by amusement parks, marinas, restaurants, taverns and inns and nothing like the bearded pirate captains portrayed in cinema and cable TV docudramas. He was not the bloodthirsty murderer, despicable slitter of throats or strangler of women as he has been so often described. He was certainly not one of the most ‘grotesquely conspicuous villains in the annals of crime.’ And he was far from the richest, boldest, most ruthless corsair of all the marooning freebooters in the history of piratedom. In fact, the pirate Black Beard, manufactured by a procession of authors, historians, and folklorists never really existed. The Edward ‘Teach’ of popular culture, revered today by pirate enthusiasts, is an imposter, a historical hoax.”

Dufuss says there is no record of Black Beard even killing another person until the 1718 naval battle when Black Beard himself perished. And, the story about Black Beard’s headless body swimming around the victor’s ship is a myth.

Whatever his name, wherever he came from, and whatever happened to his treasure, if there was any, Dufuss asserts that the real Black Beard is a historical figure whose life has much to teach us about the early times of our state.

Ehrman is a former evangelical Christian whose study of the scriptures and religious history convinced him that Jesus was not divine. But unlike some other former believers, Ehrman is sure that Jesus existed. His new book answers those who assert that Jesus was not a real historical figure, that he was simply a myth. In the introduction to his new book, Ehrman writes that he wants to show “how we know that Jesus did exist.”

Ehrman says he has no vested interest in the matter since, he writes, “I am not a Christian, and I have no interest in promoting a Christian cause or a Christian agenda.”

Ehrman continues, “[F]or anyone to whom both evidence and the past matter, a dispassionate consideration of the case makes it quite plain: Jesus did exist. He may not have been the Jesus that your mother believes in or the Jesus of the stained-glass window or the Jesus of your least favorite televangelist or the Jesus proclaimed by the Vatican, the Southern Baptist Convention, the local megachurch, or the California Gnostic. But he did exist, and we can say a few things, with relative certainty about him.”

Ehrman describes a Jesus who was a persuasive preacher of an apocalyptic gospel of repentance and preparation for a coming kingdom of God.

Dufuss and Ehrman may make us uncomfortable with our beliefs about important matters. While their challenges might make us uncomfortable they can also lead us to a richer understanding of what we believe.


Put on the Rose-Colored Glasses and Pretend You are God Today

Have you ever wanted to be an actor? Just slide right into someone’s life for the day. What if, for one day, we all pretended we were God?

Yep, I mean the BIG GUY in the sky.

What if, for one day, we all made peace, love, harmony, joy, and blessing each other our only priority? Seriously.  How different would our perception of the world be if Romney (being God) turned to Obama (being God) and said “Bless you, Child of God,” and Obama said “Right back at you.”  And they actually MEANT it! While it may not make for good television ratings it would sure give us a different window in which to look at our nation’s potential. 

God is something/someone I spend a lot of time trying to reconcile myself to. It all started in a 4th grade Sunday school class when I learned from my (God-fearing) teacher that people who hadn’t even heard of Jesus were going to hell because they did not believe in Him.

UMMM …..BIG PROBLEM. How can you believe in something you haven’t even heard of?

Was Jesus sending people who had never even heard of Him to eternal damnation? If so, then this whole God thing was not for me. WHO DOES THAT?! Seriously, who says, “I know you’ve never heard of me; too bad, so sad. Bye-bye.”  At the same time, I was also be raised singing “Jesus loves the little children, ALL the children of the world.” As you can imagine, this made for some very confusing times. 

To reconcile this question, I went to the place that gives me good advice most of the time: my heart. (I say most of the time because I chose some doozy boyfriends growing up – though it can be argued that my heart was not actually making the decision, but that is a topic for another blog…)

As I grew up, I decided to go with the whole “God is love” concept because, if I were God, I would love all my children even when they behave like idiots, plus I think that is the main point of the Bible. To be honest, this whole God-as-a-parent thing has really helped me develop a deeper understanding of my faith.

For example, when I think about what I want for my own kids, I want them to be able to take life by the lapels, make it work for them, and live their dreams. I don’t want them to think of themselves as “less than.”  Oh, don’t get me wrong. I want them to be nice people with big hearts filled with compassion who readily practice forgiveness. AND I want them to see themselves as powerful change agents who are afraid of nothing. Yes, I want them to be creators just like dear ‘ol Dad, that Big Guy in the Sky.

I’ve decided that actually trying to think like God is an amazingly effective strategy for good decision-making too. Take gossip, for example. If God heard us talking about His other children who He lovingly and fearfully created, would He be proud or disappointed?  What about the way we treat our bodies? Or utilize His gift, our life energy?

Some of the questions we may ask ourselves are interesting political hot buttons. Does God really care about immigration? When I search my heart, I can’t say that I think He does. I just cannot imagine Jesus standing at different countries’ borders, with His hands out like stop signs telling people they cannot cross over the line. Can you?

Does God love Republicans and Democrats equally? I think so. I would also guess He gets frustrated when both behave poorly and don’t put the good of all His children in front of their personal agendas. What parent wants their kids to behave like that?

How would our world change if before we said anything about another person we asked ourselves: ‘As a parent, would I like someone to say this about myself or my child?’ And if, when we interacted with someone else, made a business deal, voted in Congress, what if we asked ourselves: ‘As a parent, would I believe my children are being treated fairly?’ and then, of course, there is the most important question: ‘What I am doing to create a better, more harmonious, loving world to bring Heaven on Earth?’

For today, I encourage you to try to think like God. Put on rose-colored glasses and see everything as awesome and wonderful. Inhale the smell of the flowers, rejoice when the sun rises, embrace those whom you love with joy. Try to live in harmony, peace, and love. Smile just because. What do we have to lose?  

Just for the day, try it. Perhaps we might like it and try it again tomorrow.