Tuesday 20 September 2011

I never thought I'd like a bouncy-castle church...

...but this inflatable church, made in Poland to be used in Russia is absolutely brilliant! Father Krzysztof Kowal the Catholic parish priest of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the far East of Russia had requested permission to build a Catholic church in the area but had been turned down repeatedly by the uncooperative local government. A novel solution was proposed by a Polish friend, Robert Wojcik, whose usual business is  building inflatable toys for children in Kolobrzeg, Poland. Wojeck created an inflatable gothic-style chapel, weighing 100 pounds and easily transportable. Being a temporary structure and inflatable means that Fr. Kowal can dodge the planning restrictions that have thus far thwarted his efforts. The inflatable chapel will be the first Catholic church on the Kamchatka Peninsula. 

"This is a real Gothic structure which stirs a lot of interest. Many people are unaware that there is a Catholic priest in the city, as there is no real Catholic church; and when we get together at home people think we are some kind of a sect," the priest said. Before the arrival of the inflatable church local Catholics gathered in homes, hotel rooms or outdoors near rivers or lakes for Mass. Because the inflatable chapel is portable Fr. Kowal will be able to move it to suit the needs of his congregation in the winter months when the weather is often -40'C. I can only guess that there aren't many Catholics in the region, as the inflatable church appears to be tiny.

Clearly this isn't an ideal scenario -  you can only imagine the potential for abuse in the wrong environment - but the various news reports about this consistently point to a local government unwilling to allow the construction of a Catholic church, simply because it is a Catholic church. This isn't an unusual situation in Russia -- two days before the inflatable chapel arrived in Kamchatka, a chapel boat carrying the relics of eight saints began a voyage down the Volga in an attempt to reach communities where there is no church. The chapel boat is an ecumenical project between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church and carries the relics of John the Baptist, Anne, Bartholomew the Apostle, the martyrs Stephen and Lawrence, George, John Chrysostom and Cyril, the missionary to the Slav people, all of whom are important to both Churches. The relics are a gift from the Catholic Church to the Russian Orthodox Church, and the boat has been paid for by Aid to the Church in Need who help the persecuted church with both practical and spiritual aid. Help them to help priests like Father Kowal.

Hopefully the publicity generated by this story - and by Father Kowal's novel solution to bureaucratic intransigence - will encourage the authorities to allow the construction of a dignified, permanent church for the Catholics of the Kamchatka Peninsula. Things could be much worse -- and much more expensive: an inflatable church might not be your cup of tea, but at least it looks like a church unlike this

or, closer to home, this.

Photo Credits: AsiaNews.it (inflatable church),  and Wikipedia (Liverpool and LA Cathedrals)


  1. Eighty-five parishioners in a parish three and a half times the size of Poland :)

  2. I am writing from the Christian Science Sentinel Magazine in Boston. We are running a story about the inflatable church and would like to use the photo posted on this blog to accompany it. Can you please let me know who to contact to get permission for this.
    thank you,
    Carolynn DeCillo, Graphic Designer, Christian Science Sentinel

  3. @Carolynnd: Photo is from AsiaNews.it - there is a link to the source at the bottom of the article (under last picture where it says "Photo credits")

  4. I would have never imagined them making a bouncy house church. My kids love inflatable toys and I have never seen anything like this before.