The ups and downs of a cathedral Helter Skelter
The Helter Skelter may have gone from Norwich Anglican Cathedral but the debate rages on about fairground rides, crazy golf and controversial films in places of worship. John Betts gives his view.
This year has seen a rash of events in Anglican cathedrals such as the Helter Skelter in Norwich, crazy golf at Rochester. Screening of “The Wicker Man” and “Don’t Look Now” at Derby, two films which include a graphic sex scene, full female nudity and a Pagan sacrifice. And “Queering the Church, beyond tolerance to inclusion” at Newcastle.
How should we view such events taking place in a Christian context? Are they shocking or reasonable ways to reach out to the public in today’s world seeking to interact with those of faith and no faith? Should we rejoice at the numbers of those passing through the cathedral?
Stuart White, of BBC Look East, in his interview with Bishop Gavin Ashenden, asked: “If out of the many people who have visited the cathedral even two begin to regularly attend the cathedral wouldn’t that make everything worthwhile?”
Speaking for myself, I turn to the New Testament to seek what approach the apostles made in their day as they reached out to a pagan world. Speaking at Mars Hill, Paul said: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”
Surely it is not our role to bring the world into the church in the kind of way we are seeing today but to be counter-cultural.
Writing to the Christians living in Corinth, a city proverbial for its immorality and worldly in the extreme, Paul says: “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Not for the apostle any adapting to the culture but a radical declaration of the Gospel “so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.”
Again writing to the churches of Galatia, a letter in which he seeks to correct some errors, the problem being “that some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” He concludes his letter by saying “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
For me it’s time to return to the Gospel and preach the sincere milk of the Word. It is one thing to seek new ways to reach people but quite another to end up watering down the truth and end up with another gospel.
I was struck just this last weekend when visiting St Stephen’s church in Norwich by the testimony I heard of the visit of The Bible Comes to Life exhibition. It’s a touring exhibition that uses unique exhibition materials to teach people about living the Biblical life and gives the opportunity to experience fascinating artefacts that illustrate the foundations of our Jewish and Christian faiths. I understand that many people were ministered to in the name of Jesus.
We are living in times of great opportunity and challenge to the church of Jesus Christ. Our nation needs to be re-evangelised. It is time to step up to the mark and declared again in public and in private the truth of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit.
John Betts is former pastor of New Hope Christian Centre in Norwich.
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