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Some years ago, in imitation of one greater than I when asked by well-meaning relatives what I wanted for Christmas or my birthday, I had taken to answering "a small inflatable cathedral". This was mostly because I was sufficiently spoilt that I had just about everything I could want or need. So, I asked for this, feeling confident that such a thing would never be found. How wrong I was.

The world's first inflatable church was opened on Tuesday May 13, 2003, in Esher, UK. The entire structure is of plastic, from the roof, spire, and gothic arches, inside to the pulpit and pews. There are inflatable candlesticks on the inflatable altar, and light floods in through the fake stained glass windows. Apparently there is an inflatable organ; I don't know whether it works.

Seating up to 60 worshippers, and taking a mere 3 hours to fully inflate (favourably comparable to a bouncy castle), the inflatable church is available to purchase for £21,750, or to rent for only £2,000 a day. Although this is probably too high for most country parishes, the church's designer, Michael Gill, announced that he has had expressions of interest from over 20 countries, including requests for inflatable synagogues and mosques.

Justifying this new design, the Rev Michael Elfred, who dedicated the church said "In the Old Testament we read that God's ancient people worshipped in a tent. God is on the move and tells us not to be side-tracked by our buildings."

Source: The Daily Telegraph, May 14 2003

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