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Synod meeting looks at how to tell the story of places of worship

Posted on 7 July 2014

A fringe meeting at the General Synod of the Church of England in York will explore how cathedrals and churches can engage with 21st century visitors, providing them with an insight into their rich history and current life.

Worcester Cathedral App screenshot.

Over 11million people visit English cathedrals every year, making them the most visited type of heritage building.

Around 40 church leaders will learn how the University of York’s Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture is using some of the latest technology to introduce new audiences to cathedrals and churches through innovative smartphone apps and interactive touchscreens.

The meeting ‘Telling the Story: Using Interpretation in Churches and Cathedrals Today’ on Saturday, 12 July, is partly in response to the Theos report Spiritual Capital: the present and future of English Cathedrals, which looks at cathedrals’ activity and appeal in contemporary England.

Dr Dee Dyas, Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture, said: “People from all backgrounds are drawn to these wonderful buildings and many value them as particularly spiritual places. However, we need to take stock and think carefully about how we explain the history and importance of these buildings to 21st audiences, as well as finding new ways of improving visitors’ enjoyment and experience.

“For pilgrims in the Middle Ages, cathedrals and churches provided a very rich sensory experience with lots of things for them to see, do, smell and touch. We need to ask what we are offering visitors today and how they can engage with the stories which have shaped these great buildings.”

Dr Dyas and her colleagues will be presenting examples of their interpretation work with a number of cathedrals, including Worcester, Norwich, Wakefield, Winchester, Ripon and Coventry.

The fringe meeting will also see the official launches of the English Cathedrals and Monasteries through the Centuries interactive DVD-ROM and a new online distance-learning course, both created by the York Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture

The DVD-ROM explores aspects of cathedrals and monasteries including history, community, worship, art, architecture and music from Anglo-Saxon times to today. This comprehensive multimedia resource includes contributions from over 180 leading academics and practitioners, more than 1,000 images, introductory videos and examples of cathedral and monastic music through the centuries. It also includes an architectural style guide using 3D models to present structural development.

The new part-time postgraduate diploma ‘The History, Heritage and Fabric of the English Parish Church’is a unique web-based course, offering detailed and practical knowledge of the history, care and conservation and use of parish churches, past and present. While aimed at those caring for and managing churches, whether clergy, lay leaders, diocesan advisors, church architects, heritage professionals or volunteers, the course is also for those who just love churches.

For more information on the new online distance-learning course visit

The fringe meeting ‘Telling the story using interpretation in churches and cathedrals today’ will take place during the General Synod of the Church of England on Saturday, 12 July from 1.15-2.15pm in the University’s Exhibition Centre, Room P/L002.

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