Religion News Service video by Sally Morrow

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (RNS) A group of nonbelievers held its first secular Sunday service here earlier this month. These meetings fill a need that area atheists say wasn’t being met: Weekly get-togethers for like-minded people in a family-friendly environment.

Participants listen to speakers during Kansas City's first Oasis gathering on Sunday, April 6, 2014 in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow

Participants listen to speakers during Kansas City’s first Oasis gathering on April 6, 2014 in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The group is called Kansas City Oasis, and it’s modeled after Houston Oasis in Texas. But don’t call it an “atheist church” — they prefer “secular community,” or “humanist community.”

These Oasis communities aren’t the only Sunday meetup. Another secular Sunday meeting model, Sunday Assembly, has spread throughout England, the U.S. and Australia.

Kansas City has several active groups and organizations targeted toward the nonreligious. The Kansas City Atheist Coalition has well over 100 members — and those are just the dues-paying members.

Organizer Helen Stringer shares her story with the crowd during Kansas City's first Oasis gathering on Sunday, April 6, 2014 in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow

Organizer Helen Stringer shares her story with the crowd during Kansas City’s first Oasis gathering on April 6, 2014 in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

But most of the groups only meet once a month, or for special events — and most of them aren’t geared toward those with young children.

“Things tend to be for the under-30 and childless, and that’s hard,” said Helen Stringer, executive director of Kansas City Oasis. She and her husband, both atheists, have a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old.

One group that is family-oriented — Freethinking Family Fellowship — meets monthly, which can make it hard to build community.

Stringer said she wanted to connect with parents who share the same values on a regular basis.

Houston Oasis offers special programming for the kids, and Stringer said Kansas City Oasis is following Houston’s model.

A group talks about why they chose to attend Oasis during Kansas City's first Oasis gathering on Sunday, April 6, 2014 in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow

A group talks about why they chose to attend Oasis during Kansas City’s first Oasis gathering on April 6, 2014 in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

That model doesn’t include “teaching atheism,” said Lynae Vingle, who oversees the children’s activities at Houston Oasis. “There’s no indoctrination into anything,” she said.

Instead, it’s about building community.

At Houston Oasis, a typical Sunday morning for the kids usually includes playing with Legos, doing puzzles, coloring and some other fun activities. One week, they did an architecture craft project with toothpicks and orange peels.

Last summer, the Houston Oasis held a one-day camp, Camp Oasis.

Dwight Solis holds his son, Bayne, while listening to speakers during Kansas City's first Oasis gathering on Sunday, April 6, 2014 in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow

Dwight Solis holds his son, Bayne, while listening to speakers during Kansas City’s first Oasis gathering on April 6, 2014 in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

“If you’re a family that has a secular perspective and you have children, you’re probably not going to want to send them to the local vacation Bible school during the summer,” said Mike Aus, a former Lutheran pastor who is now the head of Houston Oasis.

He also mentioned how teens sometimes feel pressured to go to church youth groups; Houston Oasis has been working on its youth programs.

Aside from the specific children’s activities, the overall culture of both Oasis groups is meant to be family-focused.

At Kansas City Oasis, every Sunday is set to include live music from local artists. Josh Stewart, the assistant director and music director of Kansas City Oasis, said he looks for bands that are upbeat, positive and family friendly. He said the music is all performance-based, so people don’t feel pressured to sing along — but if sing-alongs happen naturally, that’s fine. The point, he said, is to provide entertainment and community.

Sean Hogge and Katie Gilchrist perfom popular songs during Kansas City's first Oasis gathering on Sunday, April 6, 2014 in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow

Sean Hogge and Katie Gilchrist perfom popular songs during Kansas City’s first Oasis gathering on April 6, 2014 in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Each gathering also features a speaker — sometimes, Stringer said, she might speak, while other times it will be a guest. Darrel Ray, the founder of Recovering from Religion, is scheduled to speak at the group’s second gathering on Sunday (April 13).

Stringer hopes that eventually, Kansas City Oasis will provide more layers of connectivity through mom’s groups, other niche get-togethers and service opportunities.

“I want us to be a community that really gives back,” she said. “I don’t want it to be just a big Sunday party, but I also want it to be something outside of that.”

YS/AMB END MOORE

37 Comments

  1. Finally, a real alternative for nonbelievers! I’m proud to know many of the people in this story- and that they’re good, kind, compassionate human beings. The time has come for communities like this to form and join together people who thought they were alone!

    • Keeping An Eye Open

      The trouble is, that if you go behind the scenes and find out what these people say about the religious or others they don’t agree with, you will find some pretty vicious stuff.

      I think we need to keep an eye on a possible hate group forming.

      Not saying it is…just concerned. Some of their leadership positively hates Christians.

      • @Keeping an eye Open,

        Nonsense. Snap out of it – that is just fear mongering.

        I hate Christianity, NOT Christians.
        Just as I hate cancer, Not cancer patients.

        Unlike cancer, religion is very easy to cure.
        The VAST MAJORITY of us Atheists are ex-Christians.

      • Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment

        KEEP THE EYES OPEN too lol

        Christians hate each other , hate hate Muslims and Hindus and any q not a Christian …. your concern only denotes what Christians are and have been for 1700year a group went to PURSUE being chased . ironically GAMALIEL allegedly told to the Sanhedrin IF THE Movement IS GOD WILL PREVAIL … today I remember THIS Movement called OASIS or freethinker or gettogether or whatever will go foward because it is made FOR US AND democratically without fear and a sick prozelitism

  2. I think it would be wise to define such groups simply as ethical seekers, or, as some do, humanists, or just seekers. “Secular” seems to carry a negative connotation because it immediately references its opposite, “religious.” No seekers, church or non-church, will ever maintain the “same values.”

    There’s no need for the same values as long as all values are honest and good toward our fellow humans. “Seekers” is good. We’re all seekers. Striving to understand all aspects of our world and our lives in it and to live with honest, good values–of which there are many–is sufficient.

    • Frankly, I don’t like seekers – sounds to spiritual to me. Seeking what? We may all be seeking something, or a lot of things, but not center our lives around it.
      And secular is not the opposite of religious. it simply means outside of religious context — i.e. most of life unless you live in a theocracy, in which religion is enforced. The US is a secular country. There’s nothing negative about the word that needs to be hidden.

      • The people in this story are seeking something. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be there. Evidently that “something” includes upbeat music, community service, and youth events.

      • Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment

        KEEP THE EYES OPEN too lol

        exactly I HERETICAL SECULAR mean I freethinker who doesnt need supranatural being for be MORAL….
        SO A SECULAR CHURCH = SECULAR ASSAMBLY o whatever humanist people dont seek they find THEIRSELVE already. IS WHY THE ARE SECULAR.

  3. Paul Frantizek

    ‘Free thinking’ humanists looking for a secular-themed rec center where they can gather together and no doubt share stale Richard Dawkins inspired anti-religion memes.

    How droll.

    • They don’t need to do anything like that.

      All one has to do is look at the online comments by various religious nuts in order to spark a discussion or get a laugh. There is no better advertisement for atheism than listening or reading what fundamentalists have to say on any given subject.

      • Paul Frantizek

        Anyone pompous enough to describe themselves as a ‘free-thinker’ probably shouldn’t be laughing at other people.

        Of course anyone pompous enough to describe themselves as a ‘free-thinker’ almost certainly lacks the self-awareness to realize that.

      • Future Gulag Resident

        Just go to the atheist facebook pages that spew the most vicious bile you can imagine about Christians.

        Keep an eye on these people.

        They will kill us if they get the political power to do so. Its happened before.

        • @Future Gulag Resident,

          No. That is a slander against Atheists!
          Your straw men are not Atheists – and I know who you would name.

          AMERICA is an Atheist country, founded by Atheists and defended by Atheists!

          If you like America, you currently enjoy life under AN ATHEISTIC CONSTITUTION. AND I don’t see any Atheists threatening Christians!

          “Congress shall make NO LAW establishing Religion”

          THAT IS AS ATHEISTIC A CONSTITUTION AS YOU COULD IMAGINE.

  4. “Gather ’round!” shouts the Preacher.
    “Listen to my nonsensical claims, incoherence, wild assertions and hokum – you must believe it true or you’ll go to Hell”

    Religion is nonsense. Secular people are gathering to tell their own stories for communal fun and to share stories full of wisdom. Nobody needs the ridiculous world of the preacher’s claims anymore.

      • @PJ,
        I would love to ‘get a life’ but Christians won’t let me get a chance!

        Christians are trying to shove their positions on everyone and can’t seem to stop.

        “We” must push these ideas on “all Americans, even non-believers” – says Truth Ministries – and “promote church doctrine” across American law.

        Evangelicals like ‘Truth In Action Ministries’, spend millions of dollars on causes like these:

        State Legalized Murder of Doctors – South Dakota
        Mandatory Trans-Vaginal probes – Virginia Legislature

        Blocking people from contraception and family planning service – Texas, Kansas, Alabama, Louisiana
        Obstruction of prescriptions – Illinois, Washington

        Discrimination as religious choice -Arizona (SB-1062)

        Anti-Gay laws – Texas
, Arizona, Kansas, etc..
        Anti-women’s rights laws – Texas, Louisina, Virginia

        Biased Counseling laws – South Dakota, Texas
        Creationist NONSENSE to replace Science Education: 12 States!!

        Religious people don’t understand how the separation of CHURCH and State preserves their own religious freedom yet through the ignorance of their churches they are funding its demise.

        Christians are going to wreck all of our freedoms. Unless the rest of resist loudly and wake everyone up from these religious delusions.

        If Jesus is not of this world why don’t you keep his nonsense out of mine???

        • The actions you list are being implemented by individuals and group’s who Claim to be Christians. When in reality they are secular-political’s. The one’s we need to protect against and battle are the far right and the Supreme Court’s rulings, which supports them.

          • @Jay,
            People who “Claim to be Christians” are as bad as people who “claim to be Nazis” as far as I am concerned – they behave with the same sort of fascism, in that they desire to push people into acting on behalf of their ‘god’.

            The enemy is religion.
            It has no place in our culture. People should keep their Christian/Muslim/whatever beliefs to themselves but leave the FACTS to people who care about evidence.

      • Paul Frantizek

        He’s probably fit right in with the rest of the ‘free-thinkers’. They could see who can repeat Richard Dawkins memes the fastest.

        Winner could get a tube of acne drying gel.

        • Its funny because religious nuts mention Dawkins more often than atheists do. They think he is some kind of Atheist prophet or Pope.

          Paul, it is obvious you have no idea what atheists believe or do beyond what your preacher tells you.

        • Honestly, I’m sick of every atheist being labeled in this fashion. I wasn’t raised in religion, I didn’t have that handicap to overcome. I have never needed to read atheist philosophy to vindicate my own thoughts. I couldn’t quote Dawkins if my life depended on it, and had never heard of him before 5 years ago.

          • Thanks for speaking up!
            We atheists are under attack for simply existing.
            Thanks for letting the believers know that we are larger in numbers than they imagine.

  5. Secular people are gathering to tell their own stories for communal fun and to share stories full of wisdom.

    Ironically, that caricature works for many NPR gatherings (Moth Radio Hour/Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me/Prairie Home Companion et al) as easily as it does for ritual version of a Roman Catholic Solemn Easter Vigil done right/rite.
    We are all secular in an obviously cosmological sense ala Sagan’s famed “star stuff” analogy. But we are, one way or the other, endowed with free will. I choose to listen to Fr Robert Barron, not Fr. John Corapi or Charles Coughlin of late memory. Were I you, Max, I’d gladly listen to the late Hitchens over the soul-less sour Dawkins, or his now room temperature opposite, Fred Phelps.
    There’s no Damaclese sword over your head, Max. Don’t presume to hold one over mine.

    • @Charles,
      Endowed with free will? No. That is an oxymoron.
      If free will was “given” to you, then you can’t have already had it. It is impossible.

      With Gods we must make a choice:
      I can choose to fake a belief.
      Or I can choose to be honest.

      If faking it is what God wants – what good is God?
      
If my choice of honesty is rejected by God – what good is God?
      Free will is not the issue. Honesty is.

      I’ve got no sword of Damocles over anybody’s head.
      Seems the swords are all being held by the Christians and other religious people – as they always are.

      • Pretty much agree with all the stuff you say,but heres the thing I see all over sites like this..The christians and lawyers have done a great job of making the vast majority of people read the constitution the way they want it and not the way it was written and who it was written for(its called brainwashing)
        It was written for the INDIVIDUAL not the churches.
        They have no rights whatsoever under the first ammendment.Zero.
        Thats for you and me not some corporation or church.
        Read it again…………………Thats why there is no church or government mentioned..

  6. These people would fit in with Unitarian-Universalist congregations. In my congregation, in Ft. Myers, FL, we have Buddhists, ex-Catholics, ex-Jews, ex-Protestants, atheists, humanists, agnostics etc. We treasure diversity. We don’t dwell on what we don’t believe any more, but on what we do believe. Good luck on finding a congregation like ours, a spiritual home for seekers. They are out there!

  7. The point of atheism is to not believe in “organized” religion and that there is no god. Well what do we have here? Organization…with all the fixings of church and instead of God we have someone to teach us how to NOT believe? So absurd…#1 People suck because they have something to always sell. #2 Now we can all feel pressure to attend this every sunday? To me the idea of this atheist church is a repackaged set of principals, ideas, and morals borrowed from other religions. Know this..mankind often metamorphs into the thing he hates through imitation. Go ahead lets plant the seeds that will give us atheistic tyranny one day on the levels of the great inquisition!! Your not special Atheist. Your human and your very susceptible because you are desperately looking for something to place your “faith” in. I’m sure overtime you will cop lessons from the teachings and deeds of Jesus all repackaged for your “atheist” cult. Hypocrisy on the highest order…

    • I find this laughable. One of the great things about being an atheist is not having to go anywhere on Sunday mornings. Like Lionel Ritchie was sang…easy like Sunday morning.

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