Sun, sand, sea and ....

An inflatable church on a beach on the Adriatic coast of Italy is proving a hit with sunseekers. The BBC has the story - with an explanation by a priest of what’s it all about. Video clip here.

The 30-foot chiesa gonfiabile -- the style is not exactly Baroque -- is the idea of street-evangelising young Catholics called "Morning Sentinels". The sentinelle del mattino are pretty widespread in Italy, according to their website.

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The Sentinels describe themselves as a "a network bringing together young people wanting to live the call to be apostles to other young people" and take inspiration from the words of Pope John Paul II in Denver not to be afraid to go out onto the streets and public squares in the manner of the early Christians. Why not beaches too? A fair number of the disciples were recruited from them, after all.

We tend to think of churches as geographically bound, rooted, stable communities, expressed in a building -- and open to passers-by. But a group of people on pilgrimage, say, are a "church", in the sense of a body of Christians. An inflatable church seems to try to square these two ideas: a temporary structure which mimics the real thing, set up in a place of transition, open to all.

It could give rise to a whole new ecclesiology.

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