WASHINGTON — The name of the gathering almost sounded like an oxymoron: the “Humanist Clergy Collaboratory.”

A meeting to organize religious leaders – for people who don’t believe in organized religion?

“Well,” Amanda Poppei joked, “some people would say we’re not that organized.”

But the humanist clergy – spiritual leaders for people who don’t like to talk about God but do like to gather for a moral purpose – are trying to get a lot more organized. The “collaboratory,” which Poppei hosted at Washington Ethical Society, the 73-year-old humanist congregation that she leads in Northwest Washington, brought together about 40 of them for a first-of-its-kind gathering of non-religious clergy.

These clergy without a God say that their movement is poised to grow dramatically right now, as American young adults report a lack of religious belief in higher numbers than ever before, but also yearn for communal ties and a sense of mission in a tumultuous time.

“Even more since the election, we have folks say, ‘I’m really looking for a way either to feel hope or to do justice,'” Poppei said. The Sunday after the presidential election, dozens of distressed liberal Washingtonians showed up at her service, and many have gotten involved in the congregation. Now, Poppei sees an opportunity for not just her community but humanists nationwide. “To me it’s just about, how can we maximize what we’re doing to allow us to take advantage of the moment right now? I believe really strongly that being a person in a community makes you a better person. America needs it.”

Fueled especially by the millennial generation, the portion of Americans who say they don’t ascribe to any particular religion has increased dramatically, from 5 percent in 1972 to 25 percent today. A small portion of those 25 percent identify as atheist or agnostic. The rest tend to describe themselves using terms like “spiritual but not religious” or just “nothing in particular.”

These nonreligious people, of course, tend not to join religious congregations. But the clergy who gathered at Washington Ethical Society this week offer them just that.

Almost all of these clergy hold services, often on Sunday mornings like a church. Members of their congregations sing together, listen to sermons and often celebrate God-free holidays. As an alternative to theism, these groups proffer humanism – a belief in the power of humanity and the human spirit, without supernatural intervention.

“We need spaces for secular moral stories, to raise up ideals, as a hub for service. We can’t do service as individuals,” said James Croft, who is involved in the 400-member Ethical Society of St. Louis. “Congregations help people make sense of terrible events. Congregations do memorials, weddings, baby namings.”

Croft and Harvard humanist chaplain Greg Epstein are working on a book for Simon and Schuster called “Godless Congregations.” He thinks the young activists who have been newly inspired since the 2016 election to get involved in the political process will turn to congregational membership too.

“That needs some sort of institutional home. That’s what I think these communities can be,” he said.