Bookings have gone “through the roof” at Cornerstone Church in Nottingham which has turned its auditorium into the world of Narnia, with the gospel story being explained as visitors go through.
The large evangelical church normally seats 600 people but can currently only fit 100 people in for services so has decided to keep them online and turn its space into the snowy forest from C.S. Lewis’ imagination,
The church’s doors now look like a wardrobe, revealing a passageway of fluffy coats, which opens out into a room with 35 trees covered in snow, characters from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, activities for children at each stop along the story and, of course, Turkish delight.
Although the Christmas-absent world of Narnia under the White Witch’s rule might feel quite relatable at the moment, Kathryn Jackson who works at Cornerstone and had the idea told Premier they hope the novel’s message of hope and salvation will be understood too.
All photos, Kathryn Jackson
"The world of Narnia is quite broken at the start, it's quite bleak and that's a bit like 2020, but then there's joy and there's hope because Aslan comes and he brings light and resurrection. And we just really wanted to tell that story, to tell the biblical narrative - that there is joy and that is hope - in a creative and really Covid-secure way.”
She said it also made the most of a bad situation: “because doing acts of worship are not very participatory at the moment, you can't sing, you can't really do very much, we wanted to do something where children could come and have a quite a creative experience of worship.”
The church is still streaming its services online from the building, with its carol service going out on Sunday.
It’s also been a huge church family effort, with members helping out with the make-up, making paper snowflakes and a life-size Mr Tumnus.
"This is weeks and weeks and weeks of people making papier mâché lions in their sitting rooms and sleighs in their back garden.”
Jackson explained that it has been a great way for children to invite their school friends and for adults to invite neighbours from the city who don’t normally go to church. Cornerstone had to extend the number of days running the experience because it has been so popular.
"The bookings have gone absolutely through the roof! We initially just extended the hours when we realised it had booked like crazy and then we had to put more days on.”
Speaking about how the church family has reacted, she said people were thrilled and that there was “more than one grown-up who shed a tear”.
The church hopes it will help people reflect on the Biblical narrative of resurrection and hope.
Kathryn explained: "Even if you live somewhere where unfortunately there are Tier 4 restrictions, or your Christmas plans have just been thrown into disarray, there is eternal hope and a glorious future awaits and I think that feels quite tangible when you're in there.”
The Narnia Experience is running until 28th December and visitors must book online in advance.