Criticism After Church of England Cathedral Erects Helter Skelter in Nave

A helter-skelter is pictured on Clacton Pier before the UK Independence Party's (UKIP) leader campaigned with their candidate for the Clacton constituency, in Clacton-on-Sea, eastern England, on May 20, 2017, as campaigning continues in the build up to the general election on June 8. / AFP PHOTO / CHRIS J …

A Church of England cathedral has come under criticism for erecting a helter skelter inside its nave, with a senior cleric condemning it as “blasphemous” and a “mockery” of God and Christian martyrs who died for their faith.

The 55-foot vintage fairground ride was erected in the nave of the 11th-century Norwich cathedral this week and will remain in use until August 18th, allegedly to give visitors a unique view of the holy structure’s roof and stonework, and costs £2 a ride.

The Very Reverend Jane Hedges, dean of Norwich cathedral, said that the installation was “certainly not a gimmick”, telling the BBC that “it’s fun, but about really serious matters in trying to get people to think about the meaning of life”.

The installation was the brainchild of Reverend Canon Andy Bryant, the Norwich cathedral’s canon for mission and pastoral care, who said he was inspired by a visit to the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

“It is the Cathedral doing what it has always done – encouraging conversations about God. By its sheer size and grandeur it speaks of the things of God; it points beyond itself. Its sheer presence helps to keep the rumour of God alive and plays its part in passing on the story of Salvation,” he said.

Former chaplain to the Queen Right Reverend Dr Gavin Ashenden said the installation makes a “mockery” of God, telling The Telegraph: “Instead of allowing a Cathedral to act as a bridge between people and God’s presence, instead it obscures it by offering to entertain and divert people.”

Rt Revd Dr Ashenden, the Missionary Bishop for the Christian Episcopal Church, is known for going against the grain of the increasingly progressive Anglican church, having criticised liberal colleagues for allowing the reading of Islamic verses in Christian places of worship.

He told the newspaper: “There’s a sliding scale between mockery and blasphemy. It’s a mockery because it’s treating God like a tourist attraction, instead of as the creator of the universe who is going to hold us accountable for our ethical failures.

“It becomes blasphemy at the point where the cathedrals represent a long line of belief — much of which is martyred belief — people have paid with their lives to believe in Christ and cathedral is corporeal embodiment of Christ.”

The conservative clergyman added: “To turn this into entertainment is blasphemous to Christ and the people who died for Christ. It suggests cathedrals have lost their responsibility to Christ because they are preoccupied with the demands of society.”

The Norwich cathedral is not the only place of worship to have turned their holy spaces into fairgrounds this summer. At the end of July, Rochester cathedral set up a nine-hole mini-golf in its medieval nave in hopes of attracting younger people to church, with latest figures revealing just one per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds identify as belonging to the Church of England.

Rochester cathedral’s Reverend Canon Rachel Phillips told Premier Christian Radio that she hoped it would help more people hear the message of Jesus Christ.

While Peterborough cathedral is planning on holding a “prosecco and gin festival” in its cloisters later this month.

The stunts came after Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said at a conference last year that cathedrals should be “fun”.


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