God Save the Cathedral? In England, Some Offer Mini Golf or Giant Slide

Visitors to some of Britain’s most venerable and imposing religious buildings this summer may find carnival attractions, a lunar landscape or a lifelike model of Earth.

Comments: 73

  1. Bishop Ashenden is quite right. The installations are a sorry mistake. The cathedrals were built and dedicated for the glory of God, not for recreational pursuits, and should be places of sanctity and reverence.

  2. I knew it would come to this. I came from a place (Salt Lake City) where the local religion was peddled door-to-door by salesmen. I mean missionaries. Now cathedrals are starting to resemble supermarket openings. What next? A sale on absolution--? Oh,wait, that's been done.

  3. UK is not one of the top countries for tourism (Spain, France and Italy rock), so perhaps this tacky idea will attract tourists from Las Vegas and Reno or perhaps, even Nashville.

  4. @bigdoc. Or perhaps tourists from Blackpool, Bournemouth or even Brighton — those oases of taste and refinement.

  5. I see the cathedrals of Europe as museums of a long era of incredible buildings built by men with zero modern equipment and every piece of these building hand to be cut and fitted bu guys with chisels and hammers. Anything that gets people into these architectural treasures is a good thing. Who knows, maybe they will find something spiritual too.

  6. Though a non-believer, the cathedrals are monuments to man's achievements and post-life aspiration. I have admired a number of them, and sat quietly, enjoying the peace, reflecting on life. Not with golfers and a slide named Helter-Skelter, of all things!?

  7. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

  8. The Helter Skelter? Like the Beatles song? Wasn't that also painted in blood at Sharon Tates house by the Manson Family? The Church is finished. All the pedophile priests, the anti gay stuff while there are so many gay priests and now amusement park rides in 12th century cathedrals, charging $2.50 no less for the privilege. This is truly sad. I was an alter boy. To see the church doing this now. You know I always tell those ultra religious people that God did not invent church and religion. Humans did. Even Christ did not say you need top go to church. We need to stop looking for God in churches and sitting on clouds. God is speaking inside of all of us. We just need to be quiet enough to hear.

  9. I would be a bold face liar if I told you I hadn't thought about what a miniature golf course would look like in my home parish during a long and dry homily.

  10. Perfect concert halls turned into amusement parks - what an ungodly waste. I guess the eternal life of damnation avoidance in the afterlife business no longer brings 'em in as it used to. Too bad. Now you'll have to get used to mini golf balls bounced off your tombstone. "projecting a [fake] more inclusive, less forbidding image" that excludes non-believers, believers of other faiths, and with an assortment of forbidding "thou shalt nots" and other dogmas against the pursuit of one's own happiness which should only happens after death for the believer. What's next? Blessed slot machines? Holy water and wine bars? Mickey Mouse reaching out to touch Goofy painted on the ceiling? Fictional Ice Queens that compete with the current head of the Anglican church? Don't we already have enough for profit cathedrals in the world? Let's hope the French do not get any ideas from this as they rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral.

  11. Pretty sure this is our society's "money changers in the Temple" moment. Proving once again that while the cycles of history may not repeat, they certainly do rhyme.

  12. Money is indeed the point. I just visited York minster, which employs full-time stone carvers and stained-glass artists and spends millions per year simply to keep the medieval windows from falling out of their settings. But two locals were only two happy to advise me to avoid the entry fee by saying I'd come to pray and not for the art and history. If people refuse to pay to keep these enormously expensive buildings from falling down, what's to be done? I pity the poor clerics who are forced to try new ways of saving their cathedrals. Seems they're damned it they do and damned if they don't.

  13. This seems more like a Simpson's plotline or social experiment than anything else. No doubt there are "smiling faces" in the cathedral now as those who would like to come in and explore in peace are frowning outside.

  14. Very tacky and also very unimaginative. Bring in, popular speakers and musicians. Have regular food, architecture, crafts, garden, science, and art fairs. Special candlelight and music dinners. Anything but this... Seeing that Helter Skelter thing in front of that stained glass window is an abomination. Way to trash a beautiful place.

  15. @Anne England has a sorry history of destroying its beautiful churches - Henry VIII (and Cromwell) stripped and looted whatever they could carry off - the Puritans smashed the stained glass and helped themselves to as much of the plate they could grab. However, these monsters could not strip away the sanctity of these noble buildings. It appears that some high ranking members of the Church of England are continuing in this tradition.

  16. Most depressing thing to happen since Thomas Cromwell suppressed the monasteries.

  17. This brings to mind the description of the pre-Great Fire St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Conditions had degenerated to the point where the nave was used by people to obtain gossip by repeatedly walking its length. Apparently prostitutes, beggars, and thieves were also present, as well as, vendors of various types. The place became known as "Paul's Walk," a mocking reference to St. Paul's lengthy missionary journeys mentioned in the New Testament.

  18. Serious cures for attention-deficit disorder? Temporary, I’m afraid. Right there with the Saturday afternoon pre-picnic mass leaving room for a Sunday hangover. Hey, “The Decline of the West” was written over a century ago.

  19. From the glories of the Anglican Church that gave the world the poetry of John Donne, the motets of William Byrd, and the profound elegance of Thomas Cramner's liturgies, now comes miniature golf, carnival rides, and lunar light shows. What's next? Pay-For-Play Roller Coaster Rides with Jesus; Feeding of the Five Thousand Friday Night Fish Fries; Communion Wafer Frisbee Contests? I am the son of an Episcopal priest and have been an (Anglican) organist/choir director since 1965, so I know a little bit about the problems of diminishing church attendance, and more about what gets people into a place of worship for services and at the off hours; it's the quiet and that peace away from the madness of the outside world that draws them to the pew; the opportunity to retreat from the onslaughts and confusion of modern life, and the chance to hopefully encounter whatever solace they might be seeking. Since most people want glitz and to be entertained at every turn, will quiet, elegance, and holy spaces (particularly these glorious English cathedrals) bring in BIG crowds? Of course not, but despite their honest attempts to be ‘pastoral’, shame on these cathedrals, their Deans and Bishops for choosing showmanship over faith. Blessed Phineas T. Barnum, pray for us!

  20. Truly, this is the end. As a regular traveler to the UK - out of sheer love for the place - I will now be careful to check before putting any church or cathedral on my itinerary at which this kind of madness goes on. Want to enjoy a church or cathedral? Find out what time the Evensong service is sung. Attend any kind of service there, and before going, bone up on the place's incredible history. Gawd. We have become an entire global culture of magpies. Shakespeare: "Oh horrible, horrible - most horrible."

  21. @Sarah 99% of cathedrals are fine, they wouldn’t do this to any deeply historical one so like St. Paul’s

  22. Thanks for this article I will never again wonder how or why I lost my faith.

  23. “This is a deliberate attempt to help people engage with our cathedral,” he said. “There is this idea that the helter skelter makes it all brash and noisy, but people are going on to see the cathedral in all of its glory.” Turning places of religious worship into amusement parks will not divert from Instagram the attention of the secular public, which is surrounded and almost always engaged by technological wonder. This servers as a subconscious reminder of the scientific reality of the world. Fire, lights, music and mini-golf will be fruitless attempts by the Church to compete for the audience claimed by modern cathedrals (e.g. sports arenas, halftime shows, concerts, summer blockbusters). These are far more conducive venues for the general public to occasionally indulge in its desire of devolving to the days of magic and the tribe.

  24. I am not a religious person, yet I love visiting older churches and monasteries - for the kind of peace, beauty and contemplation that these types of changes in activities are precluding. Yes, it is sad to see how many have been abandonned, but is it really because they aren’t amusement parks ? In many cases, jobs have disappeared from small towns and villages. In others, faith has been severely tested by abuse, but the churches still refuse to change their ways. Society in general seeks escapism over reflection. But instead theses churches opt for the superficial fix, abandoning their true calling, and thereby their parishioners.

  25. How could the Queen let this happen? Isn't she the head of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith? An absconding of responsibility. Makes one wonder what Anglican seminarians are "studying" these days The gig's up.

  26. What would Christopher Wren do?

  27. I’m an atheist but I go to churches for the silence, music, art, sculpture and architecture. Nothing make me NOT want to visit more than a silly putt putt golf arena in the nave. What are you people doing??

  28. The impulse to indulge in pecksniff piety is almost irresistible, but there's a bottom line here that isn't served by it. These are old, fragile, irreplaceable buildings in serious need of billions of dollars in renovation costs. God isn't holding them up.

  29. Shame, oh what sorry shame. If only the good Lord would look down and see what a mockery has been made of the fine cathedrals. It saddens my heart. This is not what the good Lord intended.

  30. So, will the existing amusement parks also reciprocate by offering mini church services or a religion booth among their attractions?

  31. I recently attended an installation of Luke Jerram’s “Museum of the Moon” at the astonishing Sherborne Abbey cathedral in Dorset, England. It was stunning and far from being a desecration of religion, I thought it was a respectful and enlightened way to celebrate the beauty of nature and of human life. It’s wonderful that religious institutions are opening their to community joy and exultation. I’m a bit dismayed by the commenters who find these celebrations tragic.

  32. This almost seems like it must be an Onion article. How could anyone seriously think putting mini-golf or carnival rides in a cathedral is a good idea? I don't go to cathedrals to worship, I go to see the gorgeous architecture, history, art, music - and to feel a sense of spirituality even if I'm not there to pray. This is simply horrendous. And I worry about damage to these centuries-old monuments. Somebody make it stop.

  33. @Eliza, "Somebody make it stop." So very well said!

  34. Any chance to see the carvings on the ceiling and other less-accessible parts of the cathedral up close gets my vote. Not sure the carnival slide is the best way to do that, but it's an interesting idea. Keep thinking!

  35. Churches here in the States, particularly those of the Catholic persuasion, might be inspired by this burst of creativity of the C. of E. in adapting the spacious interiors of worship structures to bring in more of the paying faithful. Forget about “Bingo Nights” in drafty church social halls or nondescript gyms. Go all the way and install mini-casinos in the worship spaces themselves, replete with craps tables, slot machines, poker stations, etc. Imagine St. Patrick’s in NYC with colorful slots leading from the rear right down to its alter. And the “house” gets to keep all of the $$$ raised!

  36. "The nine-hole course has a bridge theme, which church leaders say was intended to spark conversations about spiritual bridge-building." Hahaha! Yeah, right.

  37. Embarrassing.

  38. 2 thums down!

  39. It reminds me of the days when the Catholic Church was trying to entice "the youth" by having clown Masses and folk guitarists singing Kumbaya. Pathetic.

  40. @Ray Folk Masses worked enticing me – forty years later, I’m still a Catholic.

  41. Why not drop by for a quick prayer and some mini golf ? The logical next step is a "kneel up" bar and maybe one armed bandits in the foyer to help fill the coffers. And why not overproof communion wine ? Who says religion can't be fun !

  42. Same thing as when they started putting mini amusement parks in baseball stadiums. If the baseball isn’t enough to bring you or your kids to the park then stay home. And if religion isn’t enough to bring you to church what are you doing there?

  43. Hey, Britons, what fun! But how about you focus for a moment and investigate the (Russian?) funding of the pro Brexit campaign and any connection your current prime minister?

  44. How sad!

  45. Crude capitalistic hedonism doesn’t help one ‘engage’ with a place of deep solace and solemn beauty. Which thoughtless bishop authorized such abominable eye sores?

  46. Cheesy and disgusting. You might as well have the Kardashians shoot their entire show inside that cathedral — that’s how classy it is to have a gaudy amusement park inside a house of worship. I agree with the idea if you make the church more inclusive you’ll have more takers.

  47. Boris Johnson meet the Church of England.

  48. All for it it. So much anti religious views benign espoused .......include all views.

  49. Truly, is nothing sacred?

  50. They'll be putting pinball machines in the British Museum and a bowling alley in Westminster next. Surprised we haven't put a soccer pitch in the Washington Mall yet.Have we all become that shallow?

  51. “This is a deliberate attempt to help people engage with our cathedral." Really? Are human beings that pathetic? How about looking at it? Taking a tour. Sitting and soaking it in? Mall culture is so bewildering to me. Any large city you go to, you see tourists flocking to centres like Times Square, Piccadilly etc, to do what? To take pictures of massive billboards they can easily see at home. I'm not a believer, but I would say this situation calls for Jesus to enter the temple, smash a few tables and clear the riff riff out of the temple.

  52. If you connect these scary dots it’s pretty easy to see that our society is in the brink of total implosion. Our world has transformed itself into a giant Circus Maximus and though we don’t teeter totter slaves to be eaten by a voracious lions in front of Roman citizens just yet, it seems the carnival atmosphere is just getting started.

  53. Good luck and hope the carnival atmosphere helps to bring people in. After all, can't be worse than the unintended carnival atmosphere attending Evangelical or even Roman Catholic services of any and all kinds. Why NOT make it fun? I still don't think it will draw in enough people to make these institutions, long ago out of touch with reality and how religion and people's lives SHOULD connect but.....maybe try serving afternoon tea? A good cucumber sandwich can go a long way towards bringing in American tourists looking for some British culture.

  54. Perhaps this is the reason the Church of England has lost so many followers. It is pathetically obvious that many people who are in the top governing councils of this Church are totally clueless as to what religion and spirituality truly are.

  55. I would think turning churches into carnivals would keep many people away. When people go to church, they want peace and quiet reflection not rides and noise. The numbers of dwindling worshippers will grow even larger. I think this is sacrilegious and should not occur. I am glad I am not a member of the Anglican Church and if I was I would drop my membership.

  56. It is instructive to contrast the national anguish that united the people of France after the recent fire at the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, to the widespread acceptance of the casual desecration of several of England's greatest twelfth-century Romanesque cathedrals, as described above. These cheerfully vulgar and distracting installations are, mercifully, short term, but they speak of a society in which few people can even imagine that it might be possible to be interested in cathedrals for their own sake. The church authorities at Norwich, and Peterborough, and Rochester justify their crass innovations by the usual populist appeal to attendance numbers. Yet by attracting a few day-tripping tourists who are frankly unlikely to return, they risk offending the growing audience of regular visitors to most of our great cathedrals where Anglican music and services are regularly presented, unlike so many of our parish churches which have sadly become occupied by sectarian evangelicals with no interest whatsoever in anything to do with our Christian cultural heritage, which they usually hold in contempt. Sadly our great English cathedrals are often most vulnerable to the misguided leaders of the Church of England itself.

  57. We’ve seen Norwich Cathedral, heard a wonderful choir practice— this,a bit of a change. We follow also the Norwich peregrine falcons live stream. I do think music can intrigue Cathedral visitors, though maybe more recent— like Let it Be...though it’s certainly Catholic, “Mother Mary comforts me... We’ve seen a dozen other English cathedrals, favorites York where Henry Swinburne’s 17C canon court that hear domestic cases still exists as a vestry, and Winchester where Austen is buried.

  58. Golf was invented by one of Henry the 8th's wives.

  59. Yikes, this is so sad and pitiful. What a waste of beautiful structures.

  60. I would have loved to hear all the deeply meaningful conversations about creating bridges that must have ensued after playing mini-golf in the nave of the church. I guess this is what happens when you reduce Jesus to some kind of social service worker.

  61. I'm not a believer, but this is just sad. Excessive consumption of entertainment is ruining our society. Excessive work, excessive entertainment, and no time, it seems for introspection.

  62. Wow. Just wow. All the blood spilled over the English Reformation comes to this.

  63. Who wants to admire the beautiful architecture when you can play mini golf, anyway. Helter Skelter slide? About as tacky/clueless as it gets.

  64. Just a note for Alan Powers . . . Actually Paul McCartney has explained that the words "Mother Mary comforts me" referred to his mother who came to him in a dream, and she told him to "Let It Be". Look for the video of him riding around with James Corden, "Paul McCartney - James Corden - Let It Be"

  65. @Albert Yokum I’m pretty sure the lyrics say, “Mother Mary comes to me.”not comforts me.

  66. I'd suggest the appropriate places for the "joyful" things that are not the mysteries of faith, song, prayer, and reflection would be... let's think... How about the car park for the helter-skelter full of shrieking children, the cathedral close lawn for the mini-golf (with a beer tent for the grownups), and maybe the Dean's private chapel for the oversize globes and moons? That keeps the stimulating distractions where they really belong. Honestly. How is a family Saturday afternoon outing to a carnival ride that just happens to be inside a cathedral going to translate to attendance at an ordinary Sunday service? Novelty has its place, but I wouldn't think the inside of Norwich Cathedral was it.

  67. “We are faced with a missionary situation of trying to connect people with the transcendent when we know from British social attitudes, people have given up on it,” he said. There’s no arguing with that. I guess people are at long last recognizing the con. Rollercoaster rides are not going to change that. Maybe do a churchy version of that old trusted remedy, the Happy Hour? Save 2 souls for the price of 1. On the other hand, might be better off calling it the Unhappy Hour.

  68. What about converting these cathedrals to luxury flats? You can never have too many luxury flats.

  69. Oh, the wonderful England. A great story. I lived in England and I think some of its cathedrals are absolutely beautiful and mesmerizing. I am surprised, though, that the report did not say several have been turned into bars or pubs which have kept the stained glass windows and other religious artwork still in place. One particular one - not in England but Scotland - in Aberdeen comes to mind. I could be mistaken but I think there is one in Chester that is also spectacular.

  70. The Church needs to create new, modern ways to tell its stories. It doesn’t need to add anything to what’s already there.

  71. The author could have mentioned that old houses of worship in Amsterdam were turned in to museums, concert halls, or rock concert venues decades ago.

  72. “Mr. Bryant said he was inspired to install the carnival slide after visiting the Sistine Chapel two years ago...” If viewing the Sistine Chapel inspired Mr. Bryant to install an ugly carnival ride into Norwich Cathedral, he needs professional help.

  73. When first built, these buildings were community centers and hosted regular markets, dances, concerts and proms. During services the well-to-do swanned around to impress one another while working-class attendees were kept out of sight behind screens. If the cathedrals are now in favor of admitting and serving the entire community, more power to them.