English Cathedrals Innovate Public Engagement

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In summer 2019, Rochester Cathedral hosted a crazy golf course, Norwich Cathedral installed a helter-skelter, Lichfield Cathedral projected a lunar landscape on the floor and walls so that visitors can ‘walk on the moon’ and Chester Cathedral has a display of 80 creatures made of lego bricks. The events are part of an England wide initiative to encourage the public to engage with Cathedrals. Other events are listed here.

Adrian Dorber, the Chair of the Association of English Cathedrals and Dean of Lichfield, where people can ‘walk on the moon’:

“Creative innovation is part of our mission and it’s deep within our tradition of education and understanding.  There is a place for a creative interpretation of big events and anniversaries – whether that’s the Armistice or the Moon Landing – and by opening up our great sacred spaces for such encounters, it opens up opportunities for new conversations and new dialogues on what popular opinion might sometimes judge to be no go areas. There is a cathedral shaped space out there and we hope we are occupying it in bold, fresh and exciting ways that welcome people, that challenge, that engage with our communities and reach new audiences and that say something about cathedrals being a place for all, while ensuring our buildings will be there for our future generations.”

Norwich Cathedral’s Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care, the Revd Canon Andy Bryant, who came up with the idea of the helter-skelter:

“The fun comes in the shape of a helter-skelter. The serious comes in creating opportunities for reflective, God-shaped conversations. It is playful in its intent but also profoundly missional. 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.”

The Dean of Liverpool, Sue Jones, on 200,000 visitors who visited the Cathedral to see ‘Gaia’ – Luke Jerram’s 7 metres wide replica of the earth, hanging and rotating once every four minutes:

“Cathedrals that fail to adapt will fail to thrive, fail to survive. We owe it future generations to prevent this from happening. Occasions like Gaia are important to us as they show how cathedrals can connect with the wider community. I’ve seen a cathedral community that cried with the city, cheered with the city, fed the city and prayed for the city…a cathedral that fulfils a massive role within the civic, economic and spiritual life of the city.  It’s all about encounter. As they encounter us they should encounter a great welcome and encounter a God who knows and loves them.”


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