On September 27, 2015 the first Community of Good Sunday service was held in Logan, UT at the Cache Valley Unitarian Universalist church building.  The Cache Valley Community of Good has created the following group description:

This secular community provides a supportive environment to residents in or near Cache Valley who may or may not choose to affiliate with organized religion. Dedicated to social interaction, intellectual exploration, and humanitarian service, the Community of Good allows members to enjoy the benefits of a tight-knit community without the dogma, rites, or rules of religion. We encourage respect for all belief systems ranging from orthodox to agnostic or atheist.

This episode shares the audio from this first meeting, including a presentation by Dr. John Dehlin, wherein he lays out a starting vision for the Community of Good.

The Community of Good – Cache Valley has been meeting regularly for three months now. We have held bi-weekly Sunday meetings, service projects, hikes, weekly support groups, and we even held an adult 80’s dance last weekend (which was wildly successful). The community here is new, but it is thriving and very high quality (for three months in).

If any of you are interested in starting a Community of Good​ group in your area, please join this Facebook group.

I believe that communities like this would thrive in places like Salt Lake City, Sandy/Draper, West Jordan/Herriman, Utah County, Ogden, Park City/Heber/Midway, Southern Utah, Phoenix, AZ, Boise, Southern California, Denver/Colorado Springs, Atlanta, Houston, Washington D.C., New York metro, London U.K., Sweden, Germany, and many other places.

In short, we would be more than happy to help you get one started, and we can all learn/grow together. Please reach out if you are interested.

23 Comments

  1. Cherie December 10, 2015 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    The last time I was in a Unitarian church, which was just about a year ago, I couldn’t help but notice how politically involved it seemed. I would be much more supportive of the idea of this post IF the Unitarian Church wasn’t so leftist and politically involved.

    • Helen H Gordon December 10, 2015 at 5:53 pm - Reply

      Hi, Cherie. I am a Unitarian-Universalist, a Humanist, and a great-granddaughter of Mormon pioneers. I love the Mormon people, including my sons who served on foreign missions. I still call myself a Christian, inasmuch as I believe that the teachings of Jesus provide the best moral guidelines that I know of. In all these groups, people believe that we can make the world a better place with our own efforts, whether or not we believe in divine intervention.
      What did Jesus teach? To love our neighbors as ourselves, to feed the poor, to heal the sick, and give away excess clothing to those who need it more. If that sounds “leftist” it is also more ethical and spiritual than the twisted messages of the far right fundamentalists, who claim to be Christians but would take money from the food stamps and social security of the elderly to finance wars against countries that never did anything to harm us (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.)
      Just think of the “rightist” directions our current Mormon leaders are taking under the influence of the GOP. Republican policies benefit the very rich and throw the working classes under the bus. They hate the Affordable Care Act, which Jesus would have loved. They oppose equal rights for women, although Jesus welcomed women and children into his fold. Also, Jesus never condemned homosexuals; you have to go back to Leviticus in the old Testament to find that kind of superstitious and hateful prohibition.
      There are all kinds of Unitarian churches and fellowships. They welcome anyone who seeks truth and promotes the good works we can do on this earth. Humanists are also very tolerant, but I also like the kinds of music and rituals of a church. I’ve known quite a few ex-Mormons who found great community spirit and opportunities for good works among Humanists and Unitarian-Universalists. You would all be most welcome.

    • Kimberly December 10, 2015 at 10:23 pm - Reply

      The link to the uu is simply that they were very kind and accommodating and let us use their building for free the first week. We outgrew the space and moved to a different venue.

    • St. Ralph December 12, 2015 at 1:01 am - Reply

      God bless the Unitarians. I managed and moderated three Buddhist/Advaitist/Taoist discussion groups years ago and we could always rely on the Unitarian Churches for a place to meet. It wasn’t free in our case, but it was so reasonable that four or five people saving their lunch money for a day or two would easily cover it. I’ll bet it cost them more to clean the building before the regular Sunday service than they were charging us to use it on Thursdays.

      Oh, and everlasting gratitude to the Santa Fe Public Library, as well. They let us use a meeting room for free as long as one person in the group was a resident of Santa Fe. They also sent someone over to run the VCR and sound system.

      Folks who will share their facilities are wonderful, no matter who they are.

  2. Jen December 10, 2015 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    John Lennon watched you guys from spirit prison and he is SO PROUD!!!! And so am I! Dream come true! Hooray for John Dehlin’s First Vision! Let’s have lots of versions just for tradition’s sake…..

    • kjsutton December 11, 2015 at 12:44 pm - Reply

      lol!

  3. Danny December 10, 2015 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    This will be an interesting case study. John was right that the aspects of community mediate the effect of religion on overall well-being. However, Lim and Putnam showed that the positive impact of community is only actually significant if it is a religious community. As they put it, “for life satisfaction, praying together seems to be better than either bowling together or praying alone”. Additionally, religious communities foster a common social identity that becomes part of a person’s self-concept and is related to self-esteem. Although you want to avoid tribalism with this community, the identification with a tribe can partly explain increases in well-being.
    I am also interested in the viability of such a group since so little commitment is required. While that is a liberating notion, looking at the success of religious communes vs. secular communes, one of the reasons that religious communes have the most longevity is because they require more commitment of their devotees.
    Anyway, It was mentioned that you would share what works well and what doesn’t work well, so please keep us posted on how this project goes.

    • Plastraa December 10, 2015 at 3:20 pm - Reply

      This sort of reminds me that as humans we are driven by pain or pleasure…so without the stick or the carrot there can be little impetus to stick with something long term.

      I wasn’t one of those people who was into the social aspect of church and I don’t want somewhere to spend my Sundays, I’d rather sleep in. I get my kicks ( ‘carrots’ ) by helping human beings, so as long as the ‘humanitarian service’ portion is active I can see that I would have enough to keep me.

      It’s going to be interesting how this all turns out. I do wish everyone the best of luck though!

    • Korene Harris December 13, 2015 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      I would like to something like this prove that it isn’t religion that makes the difference. I think that people might be more committed to this than to signing away their life like they did with the Church. I hope this experiment works to help bring about some good from our losses.

  4. Pete December 10, 2015 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    The most interesting part of this was the feeling that was palpable in the room, even as a listener. John was right to bring attention to the potential for this to become the Church of Dehlin. I would wager the exact same feelings and excitement were present at early church meetings in 1830.

    The biggest difference in this, is we won’t have hearsay. It’s being recorded and documented. There is less wiggle room for misinterpretation. Far less chance of John being deified.

    Something else I noted was the stark difference between “we want to BE good” versus “we want to DO good”. I would prefer this go in the direction of people gathered to DO good. To actively engage in efforts that help others, and not as an opportunity to just tell each other how good we are.

    If I make it to Cash Valley can I wear my colander as a follower of FSM?

    • Jim G December 11, 2015 at 7:28 am - Reply

      I agree that transparency will be important. Hearing and reading John refer to himself in the third person with emphasis on the honorific Dr. was unexpectedly unsettling.

      • John Dehlin December 11, 2015 at 9:26 am - Reply

        Good point. I should fix that.

        • Jim G December 13, 2015 at 8:05 pm - Reply

          Thanks. The fact that your reply said “I” brought much relief.

  5. me December 10, 2015 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Your own church! (wink)

  6. Zack T. December 10, 2015 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    Seen this coming….interesting, I will be watching. wink, wink.

  7. Mike December 12, 2015 at 7:27 am - Reply

    I have listened to a lot of Mormon Stories. The closing song choked me up. I listened to the voices, the melody and the words….the song just summed up how I need to think, what I need to be… kind of weird but cathartic for me. A bunch of good people trying to do the right things. Powerful song to me. Thank you.

  8. Doug December 12, 2015 at 7:28 am - Reply

    John and others:

    I am flattered and humbled that this invitation to join your group has been extended. I understand the mission of it. I understand that it is invitation to spawn other groups in other areas, for the purpose of community, goodness, service, etc. I l live in Salt Lake. I applaud what you are doing.

    I, like one of your bloggers here, am not looking for one more thing to fill my sunday. With that said, since being asked to leave the LDS church ( I’m gay ), I have had a longing to sit with people on a regular basis and discuss things that have caused me to pause and reflect on blessings in my life, goodness, kind acts of others, touching scenes of giving, our humanity, our potential, etc.

    Since leaving the LDS faith of my heritage, I have gone through 20 years of angst, anger, sadness, and wonder about what things are all about. I have also had intense moments of spiritual affirmation, learning, promptings and confirmation of my acceptance, by God.

    I’ve learned that the spirit of light and an inner voice, belong to each woman and man on this earth. No institution owns this. It is a gift that each human carries. We have the opportunity to nurture it and be guided by it.

    Through some tough situations in life over the past 5 years, I have learned much. Losses teach us. We can find purpose and good in all things if we are open, humble and empty to receive. Emptiness does not mean nothingness. I’ve experienced the loss of two family members, my home, finances, business, and 3 suicides of young nieces and nephews. It’s been crazy.

    One morning a couple of years ago, I sat awake at 4:30 AM, a bit lonely in my bed. The recent death of a young son had me pondering where he was. Did all that I’d been taught early in life, make sense? I was reading The God Who Weeps by Terryl and Fiona Givens. The book was a game changer for me, regarding the nature of a very personal, loving, compassionate God, who feels our pain and joys. As I sat weeping in bed, a sudden feeling of warmth, love, and affirmation came over me. It has never left me. In fact, it has sustained me through a few other hardships over the past two years. It has been a quiet, wondrous thing that I don’t take for granted. It is independent of religion. It is personal.

    It took me a long while of feeling untethered after leaving weekly religious practice, to find peace and know what personal spirituality is. Religious practitioners get religion and spirituality mixed together and confused. They are separate, as many of your group may now know.

    My question to you John, and others is: how does a non-religious group meet and talk about meaningful things in life, without talking about a higher power? Without making it religious?

    I ask this in all sincerity. I am not criticizing. I am open and curious?

    For many of us, religion and religious groups have been a source of hurts and hurdles. Lots of pain, shame, guilt. Recently, with so much toxicity coming from the LDS faith, most LGBT people are simply walking away from religion to get some inner peace. Sadly, we sometimes walk away from ‘having faith’ and mingling with people who have a need for faith. Faith and religion are separate things. Sometimes we end up numbing ourselves with other distractions; not always healthy, simply as a way to get through life.

    I do much in my local community to help our local homeless shelter, as well as victims of rape. I believe that by serving, we get outside of ourselves. I believe that the only things we will be judged by, are how we treat others. Judgement however, presupposes a life mission and a higher power. Why do we serve? Is it to assuage our consciences, or do we care for the welfare of another human being, without reservation? So much to ponder.

    Without some foundation of tenants, what glues a group together? Sharing of weekly insights or questions that people bring in their hearts to a group, I believe, are important. Certainly having an openness to the belief systems that each individual brings to the group, is healthy. What is allowed to be part of an open group discussion on a topic? I would assume that anything is permissible, as long as it was respectful?

    I applaud what you are doing. I thankfully and humbly acknowledge how much I have been fed and helped by many words, podcasts, writings and thoughts that you John, and your dear wife Margi have offered over the years. You have given me hope and more courage. You have fed me in the wee hours of the morning when sleep would not come. Your other speakers have also inspired me and lifted me to be better and do better in the world. Many thanks.

  9. A Happy Hubby December 13, 2015 at 7:05 am - Reply

    This effort sounds a bit like https://www.doncupitt.com/don-cupitt

    Best of luck and I hope it takes off.

  10. Fred Marcin December 13, 2015 at 8:22 am - Reply

    I listened to this podcast with great interest. And I think at the outset of such an idea the intent is good, pun not intended. However, it does sound rather utopian. Because, by nature, everyone will have a different opinion about how it should look, sound, smell, feel, taste, operate, and become organized. Those opinions (in my opinion) will inevitably lead to factions being created. Cliques usually start as well. Then, before you know it, one group will decide to splinter off; that group will be called, “The Reorganized Community of Good.”

    And then there is the great Carl Jung who said, “I’d rather be whole than good.” What do people here think of that profound idea? Interesting reading on this topic is to be found here:

    https://jelenahardy.com/…/forgive-yourself-for-being-human/

  11. Korene Harris December 13, 2015 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    I am a dreamer. I think dreams are important and it is neat to see this happening. Why not give something a try that might help and support the greater good in our communities. I hope lots of Good comes from these efforts!

  12. Janie Oyakawa December 15, 2015 at 6:49 am - Reply

    John, I understand and applaud this effort and where there isn’t any such group in place I hope it spreads, But for areas where there are active secular and post religion communities can we direct the growing exmormon communities there before encouraging them to make their own? Many secular communities like Fellowship of Freethought in DFW are great homes for people recovering from mormonism. We are open to people of all beliefs and focus on children’s programming, great speakers and service.

    • Plastraa December 30, 2015 at 1:51 pm - Reply

      You make an excellent point. Mormons tend to be insular people, it’s only when we take in the broader world that our views can truly change. I know for myself I would see things first through that Mormon cultural filter, slowly through outside experiences I now see when I’m doing this. I’m hoping as time goes on I won’t only recognize when I’m doing it, but will not have it be my first reaction.

  13. Adam Gonnerman December 17, 2015 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    Outside of this podcast, where can I get more info about Community of Good? I’m a Humanist (former evangelical minister) and an organizer with Sunday Assembly NYC. I’m trying to gather info on the various secular/non-religious alternatives to church community out there, so people can know their options. I’ve done this before, with individual posts about groups and then a single post listing out the options. https://adamgonnerman.net/post/133530365772/church-options-for-non-theists

    I can either find the info online, interview someone or simply let people submit their own posts about the secular communities they’re part of.

    https://adamgonnerman.net/post/134475653850/tell-us-about-your-secular-community

    https://adamgonnerman.net/post/134425556332/tell-me-about-church-options-for-secular-people

    Thanks!

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