By Raisa Bruner
August 9, 2019

Cathedrals are known to induce awe. Sometimes they produce amazement. A feeling of celebration? At some moments. But what about fairground-style, straight-up fun?

The Norwich Cathedral in Norfolk, England rolled with that concept this week, when they built a giant, 50-foot-tall helter skelter fairground ride directly inside the church’s nave, allowing visitors to ride up and see the Cathedral’s detailed wooden ceiling and medieval architecture more closely.

It’s part of an initiative called “seeing it differently” that aims to help tourists and churchgoers access a new part of their visiting experience. And it’s certainly got people talking.

“The fun comes in the shape of a helter skelter. The serious comes in creating opportunities for reflective, God-shaped conversations,” wrote Reverend Canon Andy Bryant about the installation, which was inspired by his time spent as a tourist in the Sistine Chapel. “It is playful in its intent but also profoundly missional. It is the Cathedral doing what it has always done – encouraging conversations about God.”

Not everyone agrees. The Right Reverend Dr. Gavin Ashenden told the BBC he saw the ride as a “naff” choice. “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 said.

Luckily for the naysayers, the helter skelter isn’t a permanent church fixture, just a temporary addition open through Aug. 18. It’s joined by activities like a “trust rail” and a “walking Salvation tour.” It all sounds like it’s sure to be a unique religious experience.

Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com.

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