The slippery slope

Norwich Cathedral has been close to my heart ever since I attended school there in the 1980’s. Built by Herbert de Losinga, a friend of St. Anselm take note, it is one of the finest Cathedrals in England with ceiling bosses and a cloister second to none. If you visit during a quiet moment the sacred beauty soon transports the soul to God in prayer. It is an architectural gem built to the glory of God, for the celebration of the sacraments, in days when our nation was a robustly Catholic realm.

But this summer moments for reflection, moments that lift the soul to God, will be few and far between in Norwich because the Church of England, in a move as naff as it is inappropriate, has placed a helter-skelter within. It is one of those embarrassing gimmicks, dreamt up by an ailing ecclesial institution, in the vain hope of appearing trendy and relevant to the world. And like all cringeworthy gimmicks it falls flat.

I can’t help but call to mind that passage in scripture where Jesus turns over the tables in the temple and chastises the cathedral chapter of his day for turning the house of God into a worldly den. Have the Cathedral chapter of today not pondered his point? Why do they again turn space for the sacred into space for housing the profane?

They are not alone. Rochester Cathedral has got in on the act by turning the entire nave into a crazy golf course! The justification is that it may attract new people. Yes but to what end? How does inane chatter over a ‘hole in one’ help people understand the purpose of these buildings? How does it facilitate reverence? How does it encourage encounter with the divine?

Those with poor spiritual formation will doubtless applaud, from the cynical atheist to the person whose notion of worship is all guitars and noise, but only because they themselves don’t appreciate sacred space. Meanwhile those who do appreciate silent devotion are rightly appalled. How tragic that the prayer soaked walls of these ancient and venerable buildings are now housing such blatant tomfoolery.

Not least when the attractions, which are not bad things in and of themselves, could easily be placed without. There is open space in front of Norwich Cathedral which would make a brilliant home for a slide. Similarly the grounds of Rochester Cathedral would make a good venue for crazy golf. The cathedrals would then have enticed new comers without spoiling the sacred space. So why didn’t they take this option? Do they also struggle to see the point of churches and Cathedrals in the first place?

Maybe the root cause is loss of faith and the real problem cognitive dissonance. For many clergy today, especially those of a liberal/modernist persuasion, have lost faith in scripture and the sacraments. And being more persuaded by the secular culture we inhabit, than the ancient faith that inspired the Cathedrals, they eke out an existence as Christian ministers, enjoying the status and stipend, but with waning personal faith. Today you find them everywhere embroiled in earthly not heavenly matters; speaking out passionately on immigration and plastic straws but utterly silent on divine judgment and the salvation of souls.

The growing absence of God in their lives has consequences. One of which is that they lose their faith in the God who is rumoured to inhabit sacred spaces. They no longer believe in the power of sacraments and no longer behave in church as though the veil between earth and heaven is thin here. And that, in truth, is what leads to slides and golf courses. For when you no longer trust that God himself calls people to him, you can only turn to your own efforts and ideas to bring the people in and fill up the coffers. Labyrinths, golf courses, slides and gimmicks are the inevitable end result. And that is perhaps the saddest aspect of this summer of stunts we witness in the ailing C of E.

People have historically been drawn to church by true faith and authentic holiness. But I guess, if the cupboard is getting very bare in that regard, all you have left to offer is golf and a display promoting your favoured causes.

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7 thoughts on “The slippery slope

  1. Many will say you need to liven up a bit as this is encouraging people to visit who otherwise wouldn’t bother… a bit of fun amidst the mundaneness of Evensnog and Mattins.

    However, such gimmicks do not work. At a Mass I attended in Lourdes the clergy wore face paint and were encouraged to dance to the song “The Lord said to Noah.” It was to engage with the young and as I walked out a liberal woman (Susan from the parish council type) was frustrated with me. Of course most of the youngsters found the dancing funny, probably thinking “what a bunch of tits”.

    Would it not be far more engaging to fling the doors of the Cathedral open (free of charge) and have a Liturgy (invalid but dignified) using chant, candles, incense and silent meditation perhaps followed by a procession? A real feast for the senses.

    That is certainly not something people experience at the circus.

    I wonder if the lady clerics whistled as they went down the helter skelter?

  2. Your anger is clouding your thinking once again. This is the first time I’ve read your blog for a long time and I stopped for the same reason,

    I’m sure you’re familiar with the hermeneutical maxim that a ‘text Without context is a pretext’. Well in these instances you are leaving out some very important details that are available for all to see in order that you can beat your anti Anglican drum once again. In other words, you have a biased Pre text.

    I wonder why you do this to a sister denomination? Do you really think this is the kind of language that aids good relationships and will bring us back home? I’m afraid to say you’re just making yourself look bitter and foolish.

    I’m going to ignore your blog for a few more years so answer if you want but I won’t see it. But I wonder if a small part of your baggage is because you expected more people to follow you on the easy path to unity which has turned out to be a massive flop?

    I wish you all the best but please be more objective when making these observations on Cathedral events. It will furnish you with more information and hopefully r]prevent you from looking so foolish.

    1. Judging by your absurd comment, Mr Hamilton, I doubt you will be missed here at this blog, which you have grandly declared not to visit again . And one further thing which a Catholic is perfectly justified in pointing out to you. The Church of England is not a “sister denomination” of the Roman Church or the Eastern Churches. This fact is reinforced by events at Norwich and Rochester. It is your defence of these which makes you, Reverend Sir, look SO foolish, unaided.

  3. These developments have taken the concept of ‘ re-ordering churches ‘ to a new level. One wonders if the wrecking of catholic sanctuaries in the seventies was merely the precursor of these Anglican innovations!
    Whatever next? Drive through communion services? Ecclesiastical theme parks?
    Bring your pets to Mass? Day glow vestments?
    Perhaps the Queen will take a turn on the helterskelter after distributing the Maundy Money?

  4. In the case of Norwich, the cathedral authorities have achieved everything everything that they were looking for. That is a huge amount pf publicity, that has drawn in the crowds and a lot of money for helta-skelta rides.
    The proposition that visitors would be able to see the ceiling bosses better and understand their meaning, always was total nonsense; as was the idea that once inside the cathedral, the visitors would have some sudden encounter with God.

  5. Fr Paul Hamilton, you have no desire to be led back home. You could have been received into the Catholic Diocese, alternatively into the Ordinariate. Instead you remain in the CofE drawing further lines in the sand.

    dont give your pearls to pigs!

    whatever fr ed writes won’t lead you to Holy Mother Church.

  6. Reminiscient of Winchester cathedral which has become a shrine to Jane Austen.

    Lots of displays about her as if she was assumed into Heaven. Much of her work is over rated

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