A dinosaur roar of hope!

By The Revd Canon Andy Bryant, Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care - 08 September 2021
Dippy at Norwich Cathedral

Who would have thought a dinosaur in a cathedral would be so popular? After just six weeks in residence, Dippy the dinosaur welcomed over 100,000 visitors to the Nave of Norwich Cathedral. And from the feedback we have received Dippy has clearly made a very good impression on his visitors. Thanks must also be given to the wonderful team of Dippy volunteers for ensuring that all runs smoothly and safely.

Much thought was given to the visitor route through the Cathedral and the supporting elements of the exhibition. The time tunnel, the display of fossils from the Castle Museum and the sculpture of the wave of fish have all engaged the visitor and helped build up to that wow moment with the first sighting of Dippy. Children and adults seem equally captivated to be in the presence of this wonderful dinosaur.

It was always our intention that after seeing Dippy the visitor would be drawn into space for reflection. Dippy makes you think. To be in the presence of an animal from 150 million years ago challenges all our usual statements about creation, and demands something more than a human-centric view of this planet. To know that this gentle giant became extinct due to climate change focuses our minds on the climate emergency that we are facing and, standing there, fossilised in time, Dippy reminds us that this issue cannot be ignored.

Although some marvel at the number of visitors, it was always more about the quality of the encounter. Some of the most moving moments have taken place in the Reflection Zone. Visitors are invited to make a pledge for the planet, to write on a leaf what they will do to help the planet and then hang it on the tree – for as the Book of Revelation reminds us: the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.

We have watched as families have discussed together what changes they can make to take better care of the planet – parents having important conversations with their children, and children challenging their parents to do more. Having made their pledge, some families have then gone on to light a candle and offer their pledge to God.

The Reflection Zone is called Hope? In the shadow of an extinct dinosaur, and in the face of a climate emergency, is there reason for hope? Both in the conversations which are happening, and the sheer number of pledges being made, there is a real sense of people wanting to see change, of wanting to play their part in changing the future direction of our planet. There are thousands upon thousands of pledges, promising a myriad of small actions but which together will make a significant difference. Reading these pledges has been both moving and inspiring. They speak powerfully of hope, of a determination to live differently for the good of the planet and the well-being of people across the globe.

As Dippy leaves Norwich Cathedral at the end of October, COP26 begins in Glasgow. This is the latest gathering of global leaders, seeking to unite them in common cause to take the actions necessary at national and international level to limit the impacts of climate change, to help a planet sitting in the last chance saloon.

The pledges made by the visitors to Dippy are a great shout, louder than any dinosaur roar, to the leaders of the world, both promising to change and demanding they enact change. COP26 must produce not more words but real and lasting action.

Cathedrals are places to make you think, safe spaces to ask deep questions. Dippy’s visit is part of that searching and our visitors’ pledges are signs of hope in a broken world. Each of the actions promised in and of themselves are small, and some might say insignificant. Yet we recall the boy who offered Jesus five loaves and two small fish and fed five thousand people. Christians are a people that affirm that small acts matter; with God they have big consequences. Together each of our small pledges can be the hope the world needs.

Dippy on Tour: A Natural History Adventure is at the Cathedral until 30 October 2021. For more about the exhibition click here

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