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Elvis crooner gets aisles rocking at England’s Truro Cathedral

Elvis imitator Johnny Cowling had more than 1000 people – many of them non-churchgoing teenagers – rocking in the aisles of one of England’s best known cathedrals at a Sunday service.

"It was a fantastic service. We’ve tried country music and classical composers but never Elvis," Truro Cathedral’s Cannon Perran Gay told Ecumenical News International. "Most of Johnny Cowling’s songs were Elvis’s best known gospel songs – ‘Crying in the Chapel’, ‘Peace in the Valley’, ‘His hand in Mine’.

"There was a very spiritual side to Elvis Presley. In my sermon I referred to the late ‘King’ of Rock’n’Roll as the young rebel in the parable about the Prodigal Son. He squandered his heritage but never lost faith in his father," said Gay, the cathedral’s 46-year-old head of worship, after the 6 August service.

The weekly Anglican newspaper the Church Times devoted a front page to a full colour picture of the Presley imitator and reported that Canon Gay’s latest way of attracting non-Christians to church services might annoy some of the faithful.

"Definitely not," he said in an interview. "It was a wonderful night here in Cornwall and no-one objected, quite the opposite."

After Cowling pulled in more than 1000 people to the Elvis service, other churches that face Britain’s tendency of dwindling congregations are considering the Presley approach.

The US-born pastor of Elim Lighthouse Church in Bicester, Oxfordshire, the Rev. Dennis Niziol told the Church Times the crooning sounds of Elvis songs will form part of the local area festival to be celebrated in the place of worship on 2 September.

"It’s a bit of fun," said Niziol. "I’ll wear an Elvis wig and dark glasses."

(c) Ecumenical News International