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The 50ft slide aimed “to give people the chance to experience the Cathedral in a new way and open up conversations about faith”. Some leaders has criticised the initiative.
For 10 days, a 55-foot (16.7-metre) slide, which is called a “Helter Skelter” in the UK, has allowed visitors to see the crowning features of the Norwich cathedral from a different viewpoint.
The slide has a viewing platform about 40 feet off the ground, so that visitors could get closer to the 69-foot ceiling before sliding down.
Reverend Canon Andy Byrant told the Guardian he got the idea while visiting the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
“EXPERIENCE THE CATHEDRAL IN A NEW WAY”
“We have one of the greatest collections of medieval roof bosses anywhere in northern Europe. The trouble is they are so high up that most people never get a chance to really appreciate them”, Byrant explained.
That is why he thought that they “could get people up higher to these roof bosses and so appreciate that they are exquisite art as they are the most beautiful pieces of stone carving but also the story that's captured within them, which is the story of the Bible”.
The slide, set up in front of a large stained glass window, is part of a program called “Seeing It Differently”, which aims to “give people the chance to experience the Cathedral in an entirely new way”.
20,000 PEOPLE IN 10 DAYS
An estimated 20,000 people have visited the cathedral between 7 and 18 August, with about 10,000 riding the helter-skelter, the cathedral said.
Although “many will want to focus on the sheer numbers we have been able to welcome into the Cathedral, I will most carry away from this time the individual conversations, finding a welcome distraction at a difficult time in their lives, asking questions about faith and gaining new encouragement in their relationship with God”, Byrant said.
“This is what this event has always been about; providing time and space for both human and God encounters”, he added.
This Sunday, the Bishop of Lynn, the Rt Revd Jonathan Meyrick, delivered his sermon from halfway up the ride.
However, not everyone considers it appropriate. Some members of the clergy of the Anglican Church have been critical of the installation.
Dr Ashenden, Missionary Bishop for the Christian Episcopal Church, said the clergy at Norwich Cathedral had been “unprofessional" and were “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”, he told the BBC.
Reverend Bryant said he could see why people would be surprised to see the helter-skelter. But in addition to showcasing the roof, he said it was “part of the cathedral's mission to share the story of the Bible" and was a "creative and innovative way to do that”.
A GOLF COURT IN ROCHESTER CATHEDRAL
Norwich Cathedral is not the only U.K. church bringing in unorthodox pleasures. Last month, the Rochester Cathedral opened up a nine-hole mini-golf course down the center aisle.
The cathedral says it hopes visitors will learn about faith, and building “both emotional and physical bridges”. Opponents say it is a “really serious mistake and tricks those into a search for God”.
Ashenden also criticised this initiative, arguing that “it's a really serious mistake, perhaps born of desperation. The idea that people are so trivial that they can be almost tricked”.