Mini golf installation at historic English church irks critics: 'Don’t you dare pretend it’s still a cathedral'
The second-oldest cathedral in England installed a miniature golf course inside as an "innovative" way to attract more visitors — and it's not being applauded as a hole-in-one idea.
The "bridge-themed" golf course at the Rochester Cathedral, located in Kent, is temporarily located inside the church for the summer as a way to "encourage young people to learn more about the engineering behind bridges."
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The Rev. Rachel Philips, a spokesperson for the church, explained in a statement that "for over 1,400 years, Rochester Cathedral has been a center of learning for the community."
"By temporarily installing an educational adventure golf course we aim to continue that mission, giving people the opportunity to learn while they take part in a fun activity, in what for many might be a previously un-visited building," she said.
Funded by the Rochester Bridge Trust, the course is made up of nine holes that are each paired with a different type of model bridge — including Roman bridge at Rochester and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at Dartford, according to the church.
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While the church appears enthusiastic about the temporary installation, others, including the Rev. David Palmer criticized.
"I was 'ordained' as an Anglican in this Cathedral. What an embarrassing shambles," he tweeted last week. In another tweet, he said: "If you want to keep your tourist attractions open by installing funfairs that’s cool. But don’t you dare pretend it’s still a Cathedral."
The Right Rev. Dr. Gavin Ashenden, bishop of the Anglican Episcopal Church, told the BBC he believes the golf course is a "really serious mistake, perhaps born out of desperation."
"The idea that people are so trivial that they can be almost tricked into a search for God by entertaining them with a golf course is a serious-category error," he said.
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But Canon Matthew Rushton, of the Rochester Cathedral, challenged the notion that cathedrals can't "innovate and have events like this and to tell people about our faith in Jesus which is what we're all about."
"The Archbishop of Canterbury said to us that if you don't know how to have fun in cathedrals then you're not doing your job properly," he said.
The golf course at Rochester Cathedral runs until Sept. 1.