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A Tale of Two Cathedrals.

Norwich Cathedral has found a novel way to get into the news. As reported throughout the press, the Cathedral installed a Helter Skelter in order to attract people.


“It’s certainly not a gimmick – its fun but it’s meant to get people thinking about the meaning of life”.  Whilst I have no qualms with anyone ‘having fun’ and struggle with the concept of sacred holy places – I think it is disingenuous or daft to think that a helter skelter in a cathedral will get people thinking about the meaning of life.

Another City – Another Cathedral – Another Christianity

Screenshot 2019-08-22 16.29.39

A couple of Sundays ago I went to another Anglican cathedral – this time at a heart of a city of five million.  This was like Norwich a beautiful building – but they use the Bible, not gimmicks to fill the church.

Compare and contrast: 

Norwich uses a Helter Skelter to attract the young – and they struggle.  St Andrews, Sydney, teach the Bible and yet their church was mostly younger people.

Norwich speaks about diversity.  In St Andrews you can see it.  There were people from European, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, African, Indian and Middle Eastern backgrounds.

Norwich it wants people to consider serious issues but they are treated as a joke.  St Andrews deals with the most serious issues and yet there is joy.

Norwich compromises with the culture and loses the people.  St Andrews challenges the culture and wins many of the people.

Listen to the first sermon here from the Dean – Kanishka Raffel.  It was a tough sermon, but full of compassion and hope.  It was biblical, intelligent, faithful, Christ exalting and thrilling.

They are not just two different cathedrals – they are two different religions.   I know which one I belong to!

Screenshot 2019-08-22 16.27.19

Quantum 55 -The one with Epstein, Neurodiversity and Autism, Dawkins and the Rabbit Hole and Marty Sampson

Here is another great example of an Anglican Cathedral leading the way –




  1. “But man, proud man,
    Dress’d in a little brief authority,
    Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d—
    His glassy essence—like an angry ape
    Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
    As makes the angels weep; ”

    W. Shakespeare

    It makes me weep too!

  2. It’s amazing how those who are most passionately protective of Cathedrals and their heritage – and this is a general observation, I’ve no idea if you do – are those who never set foot in one.

    And those who merely condescendingly admit them as museum exhibits, from the heights of their own “enlightened” superiority. They react exactly the same way to any “new” production of Shakespeare, or an opera.

    But of course the Church is expected to pay the maintenance bills!

    1. Surely you are prepared to admit that one can appreciate a cathedral/church for its architectural and historical merits without being a subscriber to the religion?

      I think St Pauls in London is a truly magnificent building and have gone out of my way to visit it on my two trips to London, but I’m an atheist. Likewise with Westminster Abbey which I find incredibly fascinating and beautiful.

      I don’t “condescendingly’ admit them as museum exhibits. I regard them with the same interest, admiration and affection as I do with many historical and aesthetically pleasing buildings.

      I’m not sure why you find it necessary to accuse people with out religious faith who appreciate the beauty of religious architecture as indicative of their “enlightened superiority”. That’s an extremely misguided and unfair accusation.

      As to the maintenance of these buildings, I’m not certain how it works. I would hazard a guess about St Pauls and expect that the government would contribute to its upkeep as it is an important part of the nations history – likewise with Westminster – though I of course stand to be corrected.

      1. John: If the cap doesn’t fit you, feel welcome to pass it on.

        But there are people – and I have personally experienced it – who literally wander round *in a service* (and the one I’m thinking about was a large village church, not a Cathedral) passing audible comments and even personal ones about the worshippers among themselves, not seeing the activity as anything different from the “period” re-enactments in the Stately Home next door, or the people as anything more than furniture or (at worst) exhibits in a zoo. Imagine people treating, say, your beloved child’s funeral – even an atheist one – that way.

        And if you are not one of the atheists who campaign more or less viciously for the Church to be suppressed, while concurrently criticising it for letting their precious “heritage” decay, thank you. I suppose forcing the Church to spend resources on it does usefully hobble humanitarian and mission work, but I’m not enough of a conspiracy theorist to believe atheists are so organised as to run that as a deliberate strategy. And having “heritage” churches sold for private residential, retail or pub conversion may keep the shells standing, but often ruins the insides and closes off the very access you so value. The public can only support so many museums…

        The UK Government does *not* routinely take on the burden (as the state does in France, itself with varying outcomes for individual buildings less famous than Notre Dame) but starts and stops various schemes and grants as and when that famous “money tree” sheds a leaf or two. If you value historic churches and not just cathedrals, there is a charity that I doubt would submit donors to a “religious test”.
        (I think the site is free for the first few views)

        Personally, if you like Cathedrals I’d recommend you swerve St Paul’s and pop over the river to Southwark, which is much less well known, has some actual mediaeval bits (unlike St Paul’s that suffered the Fire) and in the week is not nearly so busy. Nor did it charge for entry when I was last there. Even an atheist might find it hard, in this 30th anniversary week, not have a bit of a Moment reading the names on the “Marchioness” memorial.
        “Many waters cannot quench love.”

  3. As Hugh Redwood quoted in “Bristol Fashion” the purpose of the church is to feed the sheep, not amuse the goats.

    1. Amusing, and I did smile – but only true up to a point. Archbishop Temple famously said, “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.” And others (e.g. Bonhoeffer) have made similar remarks.
      Or if we go back to the Source: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor….”

  4. Hi David,
    I like and value your blog immensely, but I have to say on this one I think your criticism is something of a cheap shot.

    I’ve heard a lot of criticism of Norwich’s Helter Skelter from people who weren’t actually there! 10,000 people came to visit the cathedral and the atmosphere was buzzing. The slide was just one of many ‘attractions’ that day such as ‘The Bible Box’, Labyrinth & so on. These all were designed to help people engage with the Gospel & think about their faith. There were some very good testimonies on display as well. I suggest you look at the link below to see what people ACTUALLY said.…
    Finally, of course we should be mindful of the figures that Gavin Ashenden quotes in his recent tweet about church decline, but these overlook the fact that @DioceseNorwich church attendance has been actually bucking the trend & rising in what is predominantly a rural diocese.…
    As a Conservative Evangelical I long for people to come to church drawn by the Holy Spirit in response to good Biblical preaching – but these declining figures are happening nationally & I think it is churlish to be so negative about this initiative which seeks to engage people and help reverse the trend.
    Finally can I point you to my own short article on this matter at

    1. Thanks Stephen – its always good to get a different perspective…

      I read your article and you seem to be confusing ‘joy’ with ‘fun’. Are you saying that the Gospel that is preached in Norwich cathedral is the biblical one? Are the clergy evangelicals? What ‘Gospel’ were people actually engaging with?

      Nothing in the links makes me think that this was anything other than a shallow stunt….which will do nothing to help promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ…

  5. Thank you for your response.

    Living and serving as I do within the Diocese of Norwich, and being a member of it’s synod. I appreciate that I don’t live in a diocese which is 100% Evangelical (in fact out and out Conservative Evangelicals are a minority). However, despite the many different strands of churchmanship which co-exist, I am confident that there is a very well meaning and sincere Gospel heart at the centre of this diocese – and I will endeavour to encourage it. And yes – of course I know fully well the difference between Gospel joy and ‘fun’. But ‘as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24.15) whatever the circumstances.

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