Norwich Cathedral’s helter-skelter carnival ride is a big ‘mistake,’ Queen’s fmr. chaplain says

Norwich Cathedral Helter Skelter
Norwich Cathedral helter skelter carnival ride in the church nave, Norwich, England, August 8, 2019. |

The decision to install a helter-skelter carnival ride inside the Norwich Cathedral to attract visitors and allow congregants to get a better look at the church's artwork was a major "mistake," says Queen Elizabeth's former chaplain. 

The Rev. Canon Andy Bryant who oversees missions and pastoral care at the cathedral in Norwich, England, said he got the idea while visiting the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Bryant said he felt the stone carvings and stained glass inside Norwich Cathedral are just as impressive as the works of art he saw at the Sistine Chapel, but most visitors are never able to see it up close. He wanted visitors and church members to encounter God in a different way by seeing the biblical stories depicted in church's centuries old carvings. 

The 55-foot tall fairground ride took several days to construct inside the cathedral. (You can watch a video of the construction here.)

"We have one of the greatest collections of medieval roof bosses anywhere in northern Europe," Bryant told Premier Christian Radio. "The trouble is, they are so high up that most people never get a chance to really appreciate them."

Bryant said that installing the helter-skelter ride in the church was "part of the cathedral's mission to share the story of the Bible" and was a "creative and innovative way to do that."

With a viewing platform at 40 feet, the helter-skelter ride allows visitors to take a closer look at the ceiling, which is 69 feet high.

Others say a cathedral sanctuary is no place for a fairground carnival ride and it diminishes a sacred space.

Gavin Ashenden, bishop of the Anglican Episcopal Church and a former chaplain to Queen Elizabeth, believes the decision to build the ride was an unprofessional move and that the clergy was "making a mistake about what a cathedral is good for."

"For such a place, steeped in mystery and marvel to buy in to sensory pleasure and distraction, is to poison the very medicine it offers the human soul," Ashenden said, according to the BBC.

The Christian Post contacted Bryant for comment and we will update this piece when a response is received.

The controversial plan to build the carnival ride inside church was first announced in December 2018. As CP previously reported, along with the carnival ride, the church also made the decision to install yoga mats, a labyrinth, and a Bible box.

“A cathedral may not be the natural home of a helter-skelter but that is precisely part of the draw," Bryant said at the time.

“We will be doing what cathedrals have always done: helping people see things differently and make connections with the things of God," he added.

The initiative, called "Seeing It Differently," run through Aug. 18.

The phrase "helter-skelter" is often linked to the song by the Beatles and mass murderer Charles Manson. In England, however, the helter-skelter has been a popular amusement ride for many years.

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