Space toilets, robots and astronaut suits on show to lure millennials into churches to mark moon landing anniversary

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Space toilets, robots, meteorites and astronaut suits are among items going on display to lure millennials into churches to mark the Moon landing anniversary.

The Church of England is hoping that Instagramming twenty-somethings across the UK will be taking selfies and tagging posts inside some of the country’s most ancient cathedrals.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, 14 church projects across the country have been awarded £70,000 by the Scientists in Congregations scheme. 

It forms part of a new outreach scheme to bring younger people to religious buildings and to foster greater understanding about science and faith – and to encourage people to take photos.

Lichfield Cathedral, a three-spired medieval cathedral in Staffordshire, has already been announced as the host of one of the projects.

This summer Peter Walker, its artist-in-residence, will transform the ancient building’s grand tiled floor into a representation of the moon’s surface. It is also running a sci-fi film festival, a lecture series and a schools project to build a rocket. 

Now it can be revealed that Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire, is also lined up to join in the celebrations and will be hosting a science festival – complete with quirky space paraphernalia – to entice snap-happy youths through their doors.

Dallas Campbell with his replica Neil Armstrong Space suit, which will be on display at Ely Cathedral
Dallas Campbell with his replica Neil Armstrong Space suit, which will be on display at Ely Cathedral. Image Copyright: Natalie Shaw.

Among the exhibits and displays this summer at ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ festival will be an interactive space exhibition including a replica of the space suit worn by Neil Armstrong in which he took his first steps on the moon, meteorite fragments, a seventeenth-century star atlas and the first ever printed map of the moon on loan from the Institute of Astronomy. 

Visitors will be able to sample a planetarium as well as some space food including a bacon sandwich made in collaboration with celebrity chef, Heston Blumenthal, for Tim Peake’s trip to the International Space Station. The more brave punters will even be able to have a close encounter with a space toilet. 

All this is set to take place beneath an art installation entitled Museum of the Moon – a lunar replica which is seven metres in diameter – which will be hovering above the Cathedral’s nave.

Organiser Vicky Johnson, the Canon of Ely Cathedral who has a PhD In biochemistry, said jokingly: “It’s entirely for the millennials.”

She added:

“It’s particularly about creating spaces where people can ask questions and wonder about their place in the universe and that’s a key thing millenials do. They like authentic answers.”

This July 20, 1969 file photo released by NASA shows astronaut Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. posing for a photograph beside the U.S. flag on the moon
This July 20, 1969 file photo released by NASA shows astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. posing for a photograph beside the U.S. flag on the moon. Image Copyright: NASA

She added that while the exhibition would appeal to millennials and they will be encouraged to take pictures, it will be open for everyone.

She added that its aim was to combat the myth that science and faith is not compatible.

“There are a lot of people like me,” she insisted. “Religion and science both encourage people to ask questions.”

The Scientists in Congregations programme is part of Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science, a Durham University project run in partnership with the Church of England. The project is funded by Templeton World Charity Foundation.

The Bishop of Kingston, Dr Richard Cheetham, who is one of the directors of ‘Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science’ said: “These varied and imaginative projects bring fresh and exciting ways of engaging with contemporary science and technology, and the questions raised about the place and purpose of humankind in the cosmos.

“They explore how it really is possible to have a deep and intelligent faith in God, which fully engages with our 21st-century scientific age.”

Written By: Gabriella Swerling

First Published 17.03.19:


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