Canterbury Cathedral faces scrutiny for hosting 'silent disco'

Canterbury Cathedral, England.
Canterbury Cathedral, England. | Getty Images

Canterbury Cathedral in England is facing criticism over its decision to host a '90s "silent disco" on its premises, with over 2,000 people signing a petition in opposition as other cathedrals are scheduled to host similar events in the coming weeks. 

The "silent disco" took place last Thursday and Friday night, with an advertisement previously posted on the cathedral's website stating, "90s Silent Disco in a historic cathedral like no other is coming to Canterbury for the first time."

The event included some of the United Kingdom's "best 90s DJs" playing pop, commercial, dance and "party positive vibes" for a "feel good experience." A flyer for the event advertised music from artists such as the Backstreet Boys, Nsync, Eminem, The Spice Girls, Britney Spears, Oasis, Linkin Park and more. 

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The Friday night event sold out at £25 per head, according to the Cathedral's website. Over 3,000 people were scheduled to attend the event, where alcohol was served in the building, Premier reports. 

Over 2,100 people have backed a petition opposing the cathedral "silent discos," with over 1,600 doing so before the Canterbury event was held. On Thursday, a prayer vigil took place near the building's exterior. 

"Archbishop [of Canterbury] Justin Welby, everyone likes a Silent Disco, but its place is in a nightclub, not in Canterbury Cathedral. The most important Christian church in England," the petition reads.

"The site of the martyrdom and relics of Saint Thomas Becket. The repository for the mortal remains of kings, princes and bishops. The destination of millions of pilgrims for centuries, past, present and future. The inspiration for our greatest early work of literature. And most importantly, the epicentre of countless prayers and sacraments — the House of God. Do not profane this holy site of which you are custodian."

On Friday, Hereford Cathedral will host an '80s "silent disco." The petition identifies nearly a dozen other cathedrals that will host such events. 

The petition, organized by Cajetan Skowronski, cites Matthew 21:12-13: "My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of robbers." 

"We the undersigned oppose all desecration of our historic holy places, and especially their use as nightclubs," the petition reads. 

"Dear Anglican Deans, please stop the discos and make the Cathedrals houses of prayer once more."

Skowronski told Premier that he believes "guardians of the cathedrals [are] inviting in completely secular discos [and] completely ignoring God in his own house."

"It's also ignoring the heritage of Christians down the centuries who have put their blood sweat and tears into building and maintaining it as a house of God, as a holy place," he said. 

"The nave is only a few steps away from where St. Thomas Beckett was martyred trying to preserve the sanctity of the cathedral of the church against secular forces," he continued. "So the place that his brains were spilled out onto the flagstones is going to be the same place that someone spills an over-priced rum and coke tonight."

He called the situation a "very sad state of affairs."

"[W]e're making a stand at Canterbury Cathedral, because it is the mother church for Anglicans, but also very important for all Christians," he said.

The Dean of Canterbury, Rev. David Monteith, responded to the criticism, saying, "Cathedrals have always been part of community life in a way much wider than their prime focus as centres of Christian worship and mission."

"[W]hether people choose to come to Canterbury Cathedral primarily as worshippers, sightseers, or attendees at our events — which include classical concerts, light and sound installations, and craft workshops — it's always joyous to see them discover this incredible place anew and on their own terms," Monteith said in a statement shared with Premier. 

"Whilst dancing of all different kinds has happened in the Cathedral over the centuries — and The Bible memorably celebrates the gift of dancing with King David dancing before the Lord (2 Samuel 6) — there are many different views on the secular and the sacred," the dean asserted.

"Our 90s-themed silent disco will be appropriate to and respectful of the Cathedral — it is categorically not a 'rave in the nave' — but I appreciate that some will never agree that dancing and pop music have a place within cathedrals."

Truro Cathedral in Cornwall also received backlash as it has hosted a masquerade ball for three years year in a row on New Year's Eve. The event incorporated alcoholic beverages, live music, DJs and a silent disco. 

Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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