I’ve never piloted an airplane, but I have this image of the crew on the flight deck of an airliner as they come in on final approach. After several hours of cruising along at near-supersonic speed, they begin preparations for landing as they line up on final approach: communicating with the tower, checking airspeed, rate of descent, hydraulic pressure in the brakes, etc. For weeks we’ve been talking about getting Sunday Assembly-Los Angles off the ground, but in many ways it feels more like we’re bringing this jumbo jet in for a landing.
It has felt, at times, like we were flying at high speed, the calendar slipping silently beneath us like the landscape from 35,000 feet. And now, with three days to go before we touch down, our crew of pilots/co-pilots/navigators/engineers/ (because we’ve all been sharing the duties as a team of equals) is going over our checklists, ticking off the final tasks, making last minute course corrections, getting this behemoth lined up and descending at just the right rate to ensure a smooth landing for the 500 passengers who have signed up for our maiden flight.
At this point, the skies are clear, the air smooth, visibility is good and we’ve been given the all clear to bring it home on Sunday. Of course, there’s always the potential for the unforeseen last minute mishap. But even if that should happen, we’d like to think we’ve prepared for every eventuality, even the ones we couldn’t think of and will be able to navigate our way around any surprises.
Of course, in the airline business success isn’t measured by making one successful journey. The next step is to clean up the cabin, do the necessary maintenance on the engines, restock the coffee in the galley and get this thing turned around and ready for its next flight. So, while we are very excited for this Sunday (I expect I’ll have been up for quite a while when my alarm goes off early that morning, keyed up with anticipation), the real work begins immediately after, as we have to start getting ready for our second Assembly on December 8 (you have RSVP’d already, right? If not, click on over to http://sundayassemblyla.nationbuilder.com/dec_8).
That day will be memorable as our first solo. We won’t have the presence of Sanderson and Pippa, the press, or even the merely curious who have come out to see what this “atheist church” thing is all about, to hold us aloft. No, we’ll be doing this one all on our own. But if I’ve discovered one thing throughout the process of establishing Sunday Assembly-LA these last months, it’s that the freethought community here in Los Angeles has an incredible array of talented, creative and resourceful people who, when they put their minds to it, can accomplish things together that none of us would dare imagine as individuals. Besides the handful of people who have been volunteering hundreds of person-hours to pull off this inaugural event, many more people have come forward asking to be a part of building this community. Whether it’s to provide music, be a speaker, help with our accounting, handle written communications, or just lend a hand with making coffee, there are people willing to do what they're good at to help us out because they are excited by what they see Sunday Assembly standing for and they want to be a part of this community.
To get this thing airborne again is going to take more than just the careful piloting of the flight crew, your organizing team. It’s going to require the full thrust of the engines, that would be you, the Sunday Assembly community, working in concert. But I believe that this first Assembly on Sunday will convince even the skeptics that we have the horsepower to get this community off the ground and up to cruising altitude. So, make sure your seat belts are fastened, your bags are stowed in the overhead compartment, and your tray table secured. Have a good flight and we’ll see you in December.
[Okay, I think this whole airplane metaphor has gone a bit too far. It’s about time I have my poetic pilot’s license suspended and I be kept grounded for a while.]