Sometimes people say that the Christian Faith is in trouble. Numbers of people attending church are down. Many ecclesial institutions have trouble staying open. A recent post has analyzed this decrease in religious practice that is common throughout the West. This isn’t an exclusively Catholic phenomenon but can be found across denomination lines.
A number of PrayTell posts (e.g. here and here) have looked at various initiatives from the Anglican Communion and their willingness to try something new. However, I think that at times the Church of England can go too far. I did a post in 2019 on the helter-skelter that was set up in Norwich Cathedral and the miniature golf course in Rochester Cathedral. Now there is another news story in many outlets that again features Norwich Cathedral.
Dippy the Dinosaur has recently gone on display in Norwich Cathedral. The massive 85 foot replica of a diplodocus is a plaster cast copy of the fossilized bones of a dinosaur that was unearthed by railway workers in Wyoming in 1898. The original is in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA. This plaster cast copy has been in London’s Natural History Museum since 1905. I still remember the impression it made on me when I visited the museum as a child. It was a massive display that took up the main hall of the NHM in London. Since 2018 the replica dinosaur has being doing a tour of Great Britain and the North of Ireland and the Cathedral is the eighth and final stop on its tour. So far 1.7 million people have seen Dippy on this tour.
Dippy is set up in the nave of the cathedral giving his back to the altar. The Cathedral’s website assures parishioners that “worship at the Cathedral will continue as usual.” Although with the dinosaur is taking up the top 85 feet of the nave, I am not sure how regular worship can take place.
I can see that there is a value in attracting people to visit our churches and historic buildings. I will even admit that certain concerts might not be the worst thing in the world. However, a dinosaur is a step too far. It is bad enough that some think that Faith belongs to a more primitive world and has been totally superseded by our modern world that has all the answers. But Dino in a cathedral just begs for some wag to claim that people of faith are dinosaurs!
N.B. the photo accompanying this post is of Dippy at the Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery on the Glasgow leg of the tour. There are no photos yet of Dino at the Cathedral in a Google image search with a Creative Commons licenses. But if you follow the links above you can see Dino in the nave of Norwich Cathedral.