An Oxford University chaplain has hit on a devilishly cunning way of luring undergraduates into her college’s chapel: disguising it with coloured, flickering lights so it looks more like a club dance floor than a church.
— RevClare (@clarehayns) October 4, 2021
‘Lovely to have the [Christ Church, Oxford] freshers back and to fill [Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford] with lights and joy’, tweets out the Chaplain, the Rev Clare Hayns. (Helpfully, her Twitter biography tells you, next to the rainbow flag, that her preferred pronouns are ‘she/her’).
Is it really lovely, though?
I happen to have spent three years as an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford myself. The part-Norman chapel (which also happens to be Oxford’s cathedral) was, I recall, a place of tranquil beauty. Among those who would have worshipped there or thereabouts, over the years are: the college’s founder Cardinal Wolsey; the college’s patron Henry VIII; Charles I (from when Oxford was a Royalist stronghold); ‘Lewis Carrol’ (who was inspired to write Alice in Wonderland nearby); St Frideswide (who is buried there); Edward Burne-Jones (who designed some of the stained glass); and so on.
Never once do I recall thinking, even in my most booze- or drug-addled moments of intoxication, ‘What this place really needs to make it appealing to us young uns is a disco ball and a light machine so I can imagine I’m tripping at a rave.’
Obviously, this desecration of sacred space with amateurish disco lighting is tacky and crass and unnecessary. But it seems to me that the bigger problem here is what it tells us about the mindset of two of Britain’s formerly great institutions – the Church of England and Oxford’s colleges.
In each case, they seem so embarrassed by their own product that the only way they feel they can sell it is by dumbing it down and pandering to what they imagine are the inane prejudices of their target audience: da yoof.
Chaplain ‘she/her’ Hayns admits as much in a defensive follow-up tweet when she retorts: ‘People here seem to think this was a service. It was not. It is an annual event where students can explore their chapel and many find it a welcome space and return.’
Just consider for a moment the truly fatuous assumptions behind