More tee, vicar? Rochester Cathedral installs mini-golf course to attract new worshippers
Video report by ITV News Correspondent Ivor Bennett
It's not unusual for golfers to offer up a quick prayer as they approach a crucial putt but Rochester Cathedral has taken seeking divine intervention to the next level.
It's installed a crazy golf course in the nave - to encourage a new generation of worshippers to seek a holy in one.
The nine-hole course features nine different bridges, including mini replicas of the original Roman bridge at Rochester, and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at Dartford.
It's hoped the course will attract new (young) visitors to the cathedral and the fairways to heaven will help build and renew links between the church and the local community.
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The Rev Rachel Phillips, Canon for Mission and Growth at Rochester Cathedral, said: “For over 1,400 years, Rochester Cathedral has been a centre 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 the course formed the centrepiece of a ‘Building Bridges’ theme running through the summer.
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"We hope that, while playing adventure golf, visitors will reflect on the bridges that need to be built in their own lives and in our world today,” added Rev Phillips.
While the move received plenty of support, it's not gone down well with everyone.
The Rochester Cathedral twitter feed attracted a fair amount of criticism from people decrying the dumbing down of a place of worship.
In response, the Cathedral said the free activity was aimed at "engaging young people and families with engineering and bridge building".
Worship continues unaffected, it said, with at least three services per day and the adventure golf is only taking place in the nave of the Cathedral, with other spaces available for prayer and quiet as usual.
The course was designed and paid for by Rochester Bridge Trust and constructed by HM Adventure Golf.
Andrew Freeman, Operations Manager at the Rochester Bridge Trust, added: “We are always looking for new ways to engage with young people and inspire them to take an interest in bridges and civil engineering.
“Learning through play is at the heart of many of our educational initiatives, as we introduce new concepts and ideas to young people away from the classroom environment.”
Rochester Cathedral is England’s second-oldest. There has been Christian worship on the site since the year 604, though the present cathedral building dates to 1080.
The mini-golf adventure course will be open from August 1 to September 1.
How other places of worship are trying to attract new visitors
Norwich Cathedral's helter skelter ride
Norwich Cathedral's Seeing It Differently project during the summer holidays will feature a classic children's helter skelter funfair ride.
As with the mini golf, the aim is to enable visitors to see the building in a new way and encourage people to have "conversations about faith".
"We want to help people to literally see the Cathedral differently but also to open up the conversation as to how God can help us see life differently,” said the Revd Canon Andy Bryant, Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care, who came up with the idea for the project.
Leicester - Lego meets Richard III
Though not strictly inside Leicester Cathedral, the Richard III visitor centre across the road features a giant "portrait" of the 15th century king made out of Lego.
Some 96,000 bricks were used to construct the 16ft x 13ft mosaic image of Richard, whose remains were famously discovered under a car park in the city.
He is now interred at the cathedral and has become a major draw to Leicester.
And, since 2016, visitors to St Botolph’s in Boston, Lincolnshire, have been adding to the tens of thousands of Lego bricks to help build a replica of the church.
Not wine, but gin (and others)
Many churches have opened their doors to a variety of events - including gin tasting.
For example, St Mary's Church in Nottingham staged a Gin Society Festival at the end of June, featuring 120 gins.
There's also whisky festivals, beer festivals, vodka and rum festivals at various churches, as well as food festivals.