Wednesday, February 07, 2024

‘Silent Disco’ at Canterbury Cathedral leads to more voluble protest

90s Silent Disco in Canterbury Cathedral (sold out), Canterbury Cathedral,  February 9 to February 10 |

A group of protesters plans to gather outside Canterbury Cathedral tomorrow evening to “peacefully” object to a dance event being held in the cathedral’s interior.

Labelled by some as the “rave in the Nave”, its organisers at the cathedral argue that the event called 90’s Silent Disco In The Cathedral is a way to raise much needed funds for the cathedral and to grow awareness about religion among younger generations.  

The protestors, however, have branded the event – that will run for two nights – as “absurd” and described it as an “alcohol fuelled rave” that will do nothing for the faith, reports the Daily Telegraph

All of the £25 tickets have sold out, according to the cathedral, and it is expected that 750 people will attend the disco each night. Revellers will wear headphones to hear classic 1990’s tracks as they dance. Silent discos, as they are known, are a relatively recent phenomenon, and have proved popular due to their counter intuitive and quirky modus operandi.

Due to the headphones, there is no thudding baseline and “external noise”, and people can dance, talk, laugh and clink glasses as if they were in their own home and holding a low-key party in their sitting room.

“It’s not going to make younger people take the Church more seriously, it’s not going to make people think Christians take their faith seriously – no other religions would do this and it’s not effective evangelism,” says Cajetan Skowronski, one of those campaigning against the event.

The group raised their concerns during a meeting with the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Rev David Monteith.

“While respectful of our right to protest, the Dean was dismissive of our petition, stating that we were an extreme minority – for not wanting an alcohol-fuelled rave to the music of Eminem in God’s house,” Skowronski said.

“Rev Monteith was convinced – with no evidence – that the majority of Christians would support this disco, and our petition and reasoned arguments could not change his mind.”

As Catholic Herald columnist Gavin Ashenden has described, the problem for many Christians – especially Catholics – is exasperated by the fact that the cathedral, now in the hands of the Church of England, was once one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites when England was a Catholic land.

Saint Thomas Becket was martyred in the north western transept, just beyond the nave, after which people flocked to the site and “the Cathedral saw an endless line of suffering pilgrims walk, stumble and crawl over these stones begging for healing,” Ashenden says.

“Every stone on that floor carried the weight of streams of desperate people. Both the questing suffering, but equally those who walked away healed, infused with joy at the miraculous answers to their prayers.”

In short, the cathedral, especially its interior, is an especially holy location. So much so that even today there are, as Ashenden says, “those of us who have been pilgrims there and for whom love, longing and prayer were birthed and nurtured there”.

In a more recent Catholic Herald article, he highlights that the appropriation of the cathedral for the disco maintains an ongoing and troubling trend – particularly in the eyes of Catholics.

“Scarcely a month seems to go by in the United Kingdom without a small scandal relating to a medieval Catholic cathedral sequestrated at the Reformation and now run by the Church of England,” Ashenden writes. “The current cathedral custodians in different places have resorted to golf courses, helter skelters, risqué film clubs and gin distilleries.”

Rev Monteith insists that the silent disco will be “appropriate and respectful”, the Telegraph reports.

“Cathedrals have always been part of community life in a way much wider than their prime focus as centres of Christian worship and mission,” Rev Monteith says, adding that dancing has long played a role in religion and is not necessarily an inappropriate act for a religious setting.

“Whilst dancing of all different kinds has happened in the cathedral over the centuries and the Bible memorably celebrates the gift of dancing with King David dancing before the Lord (2 Samuel 6), there are many different views on the secular and the sacred,” he says.

He also emphasises that the event is “categorically not a ‘rave in the Nave’”, while acknowledging: “I appreciate that some will never agree that dancing and pop music have a place within cathedrals”.

Skowronski hopes to see supporters travel from all over the country to join the peaceful protest being held between 6 – 8 p.m. on 8 February at Christ Church Gate. He says that so far about 30 people have signed up to attend.