Delingpole: Oxford College Chapel Sells Soul to Rave Satan

disco church 2
DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0

An Oxford University chaplain has hit on a devilishly cunning way of luring undergraduates into her college’s chapel: disguising it with coloured, flickering lights so it looks more like a club dance floor than a church.

‘Lovely to have the [Christ Church, Oxford] freshers back and to fill [Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford] with lights and joy’, tweets out the Chaplain, the Rev Clare Hayns. (Helpfully, her Twitter biography tells you, next to the rainbow flag, that her preferred pronouns are ‘she/her’).

Is it really lovely, though?

I happen to have spent three years as an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford myself. The part-Norman chapel (which also happens to be Oxford’s cathedral) was, I recall, a place of tranquil beauty. Among those who would have worshipped there or thereabouts, over the years are: the college’s founder Cardinal Wolsey; the college’s patron Henry VIII; Charles I (from when Oxford was a Royalist stronghold); ‘Lewis Carrol’ (who was inspired to write Alice in Wonderland nearby); St Frideswide (who is buried there); Edward Burne-Jones (who designed some of the stained glass); and so on.

Never once do I recall thinking, even in my most booze- or drug-addled moments of intoxication, ‘What this place really needs to make it appealing to us young uns is a disco ball and a light machine so I can imagine I’m tripping at a rave.’

Obviously, this desecration of sacred space with amateurish disco lighting is tacky and crass and unnecessary. But it seems to me that the bigger problem here is what it tells us about the mindset of two of Britain’s formerly great institutions – the Church of England and Oxford’s colleges.

In each case, they seem so embarrassed by their own product that the only way they feel they can sell it is by dumbing it down and pandering to what they imagine are the inane prejudices of their target audience: da yoof.

Chaplain ‘she/her’ Hayns admits as much in a defensive follow-up tweet when she retorts: ‘People here seem to think this was a service. It was not. It is an annual event where students can explore their chapel and many find it a welcome space and return.’

Just consider for a moment the truly fatuous assumptions behind that tweet. She/her Rainbow Flag Hayns appears to be suggesting that the only way you’re going to be able to persuade college freshers that a stone-built ecclesiastical interior is a ‘welcome space’ is to disguise it as a nightclub.

Has there really been such a catastrophic decline in the maturity and intelligence of Christ Church, Oxford freshers in the 35 or so years since I was one? It’s possible, I suppose, but I doubt it. To win a coveted place at the House (as Christ Church is known: Aedes Christi, the ‘House of Christ’) you need to be of above-average intelligence. So why does the college chaplain feel they should nonetheless be coddled like kindergarten children? And why does Oxford cathedral agree to participate in this charade?

Traditionalists are not impressed.

Angela Tilby, an Anglican priest and Canon Emeritus of Oxford Cathedral, tweeted:

‘And they abolished choral Matins for…this?’

Rev Jamie Franklin, of the Irreverend Podcast, added:

It’s an abomination. Another example of the way that the Church of England has no conception of the relationship between form and content and the way that relates to evangelism and outreach.



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