Q: I work in a company of about 40 people that includes a handful of evangelical Christians. Their religious fervour has never been a problem until quite recently, when they started asking others in the office to come to their church meetings. It's making the atmosphere increasingly awkward. What should we do?
A: I strongly suspect that your initial response to their invitations was a little fuzzy. It's a very natural instinct and I'm not blaming you if it was; it always seems much kinder and more sensitive to mutter vaguely about that particular evening not being very convenient than to give an unequivocal refusal.
The trouble is, of course, that because you haven't made yourselves immediately clear, the invitations will continue to be extended, the excuses will get increasingly lame and unconvincing and the atmosphere will become increasingly awkward. (You know, when you fail to register someone's name and you go on seeing them every day, how it gets harder and harder to ask them? The situation you're in is a bit like that.)
What you need to avoid at all costs, of course, is the escalation of tension to the point where one of your group suddenly bursts out with some ill-judged and instantly regretted brush-off. That could be permanently damaging to internal relationships.
So if I were you, I'd find some reason to be alone with one of this band of evangelical Christians - outside office hours over a coffee, perhaps - and confide in them quite openly.
Say that you all respect and indeed admire their faith and commitment, but their anxiety to have you join church meetings is already causing some embarrassment and could easily lead to quite unnecessary antipathy. It's illogical, you admit, and probably mostly your fault for not making yourselves clear from the start, but you are sure they'll understand. Would he or she very kindly pass all this on to the other members of their group?
I'd be very surprised if this sensitive but firm approach didn't do the trick.