‘… it’s not all boring and serious.’

The latest loony idea to ‘attract’ young people to Christianity is apparently to turn our cathedrals into discos – dubbed by an irreverent press as a ‘rave in the nave’.  The Revd Jessica Fellowes, seemingly spokesperson for this half-baked sacrilege, told BBC Newsbeat that it was a way of getting more people into church.  “’I love the idea of people dancing on a Saturday night and praying on a Sunday morning,’ she enthused. ‘We need people to come in and have fun – it’s not all boring and serious’. 
Well, she’s not wrong there perhaps – the novelty will almost certainly attract young people!  But does our ‘funky’ vicar seriously imagine that disco-loving teenagers will be so struck by the tranquil grandeur of a cathedral, with its atmosphere of quiet contemplation and prayer, that – some eight hours later and as the first of the faithful arrive – they will fall to their knees, before joining in a rousing chorus of Onward Christian Soldiers
And, while we’re on the subject of belief, exactly what is the gospel to which Revd Fellowes hopes to convert our recalcitrant lambs?  Is it the gospel as set down in the Bible, or some new trendy, all singing and all dancing version, to go with the fun-packed a-go-go she is so keen to promote?  A gospel that will no doubt sooth their fragile egos, reinforcing the message that God is fun and that anything goes, provided only we are true to ourselves.
Let us not delude ourselves.  There is no way on God’s earth young ravers will be converted by the accident of location, and this is surely at root no more than, as claimed by one leading newspaper, a thinly disguised attempt to shore up cathedral coffers.  The bottom line is, our young thrill seekers are being asked to pay money for novelty.  We can’t entirely rule out their encounter with God at such events, of course, because God remains a God of miracles, but the spurious platitudes being pumped out as justification are degrading and an insult to the faith.
Converting Christianity’s sacred spaces into theme parks and discotheques in order to make faith more ‘relevant’ is at best misconceived, and, at worst, contemptible.  

God IS.  He sent His only Son Jesus Christ to be born as man in order to rescue us from sin, but He is everywhere, and we are called to worship Him in spirit and in truth.  Yet it is also true that places set aside as holy are God’s gift to humanity, still battling, ahead of Christ’s return, with the reality of sin.  Pre-eminently, over the centuries, our churches and cathedrals have acted as the symbol of God’s glory, presence, and power, amongst and with us, where men and women gather, both corporately and as individuals, to worship and pray … to encounter the Sovereign Lord God.  For this reason alone, they are not just symbols, but places of interface, to be approached with reverence and awe.  In them, God’s name is exalted and, in them, the desolate, lonely, lost, frightened, questioning, and grieving, find hope, consolation, and help.  In and through them, those who are perhaps far off are helped to enter the numinous presence of God.  
So they must be approached with reverence and awe, as holy ground.   The one thing they must not be is trivialised out of ill-considered attempts to make them more ‘relevant’.
The Revd Fellowes is right.  Places set aside for worship are so much more than ‘boring and serious’.  They are, or should be, places of encounter with God.  If Christ said of the moneychangers in the temple, ‘you have made it a den of thieves’, what would He now say to those seeking to turn the place of His abiding into no more than a venue for entertainment?

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