Thursday, June 01, 2006

Tourists Smitten by “Da Vinci Code” Drive Cleric From Job

From The Scotsman:
THE priest of Rosslyn Chapel has resigned amid widespread speculation that he is no longer prepared to tolerate the worldwide hype generated by The Da Vinci Code.

The Rev Michael Fass, who has previously spoken out against the “sensational speculation” surrounding the chapel, will leave his post in July.

A friend of the priest, who has been at the church for nine years, said: “He became sick of the church and congregation becoming some kind of Disneyland tourist attraction.”

Ever since the author Dan Brown identified the historic Midlothian church as the hiding place of the Holy Grail in his best-selling book, visitor numbers have soared.

It is understood Mr Fass, 61, has told friends all the fuss over the phenomenon of The Da Vinci Code had made his position unbearable. They say the Episcopalian priest found his work among the 300-strong congregation in the village of Roslin was being undermined and the chapel was becoming a “Disneyland” for fans of the novel.

The chapel, also known as St Matthew’s Collegiate Church, has seen a rising congregation under Rev Fass and a busy schedule of baptisms and weddings.

It is open to visitors seven days a week; they are asked not to enter only when marriages are taking place. Since 2003, when the book was first published, the number of people visiting the church has rocketed from 9,500 a year to 117,000.

A friend of the priest, who has been at the church for nine years, said: “He became sick of the church and congregation becoming some kind of Disneyland tourist attraction.

“The Rev Fass is a very serious and committed man. I think he finally thought it was becoming unbearable when religious services were interrupted by tourists who had little idea that the chapel is actually a functioning church.”

In a series of sermons entitled “Faith and Place”, which followed the publication of The Da Vinci Code, he wrote: “I am passionate that the promotion of this place should not be based upon mystery, paganism, Masonic or Templar secrets; such an approach is, I believe, profoundly misguided.”

He went on: “I am passionate that this should be a place not of unhealed or false memories, not of secrets and sensational speculation or ‘esoteric’ inquiry ... but rather it should be a place of healing, reconciliation and prayer.”
Fass seems like an estimable person. How many Episcopal churches anywhere are “rising congregations?”

Still, shouldn’t the notoriety of the church be seen as an asset to be exploited for good rather than a nuisance?

Couldn’t the tourists be taught, in cheerful but forthright way the truth about The Da Vinci Code? Isn’t managing the tourists a challenge similar to that faced by museums and historical sites all over the world? Admittedly, most churches have no experience in this, but isn’t it something worth learning, in this case?

Indeed, what would be wrong with selling books and videos telling the truth about The Da Vinci Code?

And aren’t a fair number of the tourists Christians who might welcome an opportunity to pray in the chapel, or even join a worship service there?

Somehow, we have the feeling that a huge opportunity is staring this congregation right in the face.

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