Helter skelters and mini golf... What should our church buildings be doing in 2019?


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Rev Canon Andrew Bryant on why his cathedral put up a helter skelter

"I can understand why some people may be a little bit surprised to see a helter skelter in a cathedral.

"But it is a deliberately playful idea with a very serious purpose - to get up close to what is one of the greatest collection of medical roof bosses in northern Europe.

"I think it's an exciting time in English cathedrals, there is a feeling of confidence with worshipper and visitor numbers going up. They are being more creative and innovative in projects.

"From those visits interesting conversations happen, which means that cathedrals are doing what they have always done and creating conversations about faith.

"People are warming to cathedrals, the music and the architecture, but also the way the space is used creatively and imaginatively.

"There is a helter skelter in the nave but the life of the cathedral is continuing as it always was, people are lighting candles and writing prayers and the pattern of worship is going on.

"The building is so large is it able to speak in different ways to people at different times - no one event drowns out any others."

Dr Gavin Ashenden, a former chaplain to the Queen and now a missionary bishop, explains why he feels differently

"I think the Church of England is asking the wrong question and getting the wrong answer.

"The wrong question is 'How do we get people into our churches?' and that is the question a failing retail store might ask.

"The reason it is the wrong question is that there is no evidence that people who come into churches find Christ that way.

"They find interesting things, they have an interesting time, but they do not get the impact of what Christianity is about.

"If you divert and entertain, then an encounter with God becomes less likely.

"So what should cathedrals be doing? The answer is then that there are already places that are doing quite a powerful job for Christianity.

"They are magnificent, huge and breathtaking buildings - they speak about the awe and power of the creator who is beyond us.

"But they also speak about the God who comes into us and transforms us.

"Cathedrals do a good job of that but you have got to let them do it.

"People must also be ready. It's a bit like a pregnant woman being ready to give birth at nine months. Before that, she won't be ready.

"A person coming into a cathedral has to be ready for that encounter.

"It is unprofessional, they should know better. There are things you can do, like the hugely popular Alpha course which has people come in and discuss the Bible together.

"Being inspired by people from history and life, like Isaac Newton, who were inspired by the story of Jesus and the gospel.

"Just getting them into the building is the reaction of a failing retail store and we ought to do better than that."


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There is a basketball court in my church building. It's actually an incredible ministry, and a successful way to share the Gospel. Many young people have come to know the Lord through our Basketball Ministry.


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I have no particular issue with rock climbing walls and basketball courts associated with a church ministry, but the picture of the helter skelter in the cathedral was a bit much for me.