Cathedral helter skelter is a unique chance to appreciate our wonderful works of art
PUBLISHED: 17:08 16 August 2019 | UPDATED: 18:29 17 August 2019
Revd Canon Andy Bryant, Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care at Norwich Cathedral says Seeing It Differently is a playful idea with serious intent
Cathedrals are the great success story of the Church of England. They are growing in both their numbers of worshippers and visitors. They have also, over many years, earnt a reputation for creative and imaginative visitor engagement. Seeing It Differently at Norwich Cathedral is part of that growing confidence of English Cathedrals.
The helter skelter is a playful idea with a serious intent. Norwich Cathedral has the finest collection of roof bosses anywhere in Northern Europe but because they are so high up few visitors are really able to engage with them. Climbing the helter skelter brings the visitor closer to these wonderful works of art than perhaps has ever happened since they were installed in the late 1400s.
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Not only are they beautifully carved, they tell the story of the Bible, from Creation to Redemption. Seeing It Differently invites the visitor to engage with this story. Other installations in the cathedral pick up this theme. Visitors have the opportunity to lie down and look up and reflect upon the nativity sequence of bosses, to sit inside the Bible surrounded by the words of Scripture or share a prayerful journey at the labyrinth.
Cathedrals are big enough to contain a diversity of activity and have always done so. Throughout this period the cathedral's daily pattern of worship carries on unaltered. People are lighting candles and writing prayers. The bubble of excitement around the helter-skelter does not hinder the stillness of those lying down and looking up, or the prayers being offered at the high altar.
Cathedrals are places which are able to contain the whole of life and the range of human emotion. Here the solemn and serious are often to the fore and sometimes too the heart-breaking. But humans are also made for love, laughter and fun and it is right that these too should, from time to time, also find their expression in this building.
Judging from the many conversations with our visitors, Seeing It Differently is the cathedral being what it has always been, a place where people encounter the story of salvation and questions about faith come alive.