An art piece and monument planned to preserve the Christian heritage of the United Kingdom and profile a million answered prayers is coming to life amid data showing increased interest in spirituality and prayer, especially among young people.
The Eternal Wall of Answered Prayer charity in Coleshill — near Birmingham — was founded by the former chaplain of the Leicester City Football Club, Richard Gamble, and its landmark is expected to open at the end of 2023 at a cost of at least $3.4 million, depending on donations and partnerships.
The Savanta ComRes survey, commissioned by The Eternal Wall of Answered Prayer, found this week that a third of British adults regularly attend church. Young people in particular are leaning on spirituality to cope with mental health conditions, the poll found, with 51% of 18- to 34-year-olds praying at least once a month, compared to 24% of people aged 55 and over. The poll also found that 49% of 18- to 34-year-olds visit church at least once a month, compared to 16% of those aged 55 and over.
The survey presents a rosy picture compared to other data showing a rapid decline in overall U.K. church membership. While a 2014 Gallup poll found that 30% of Britons identify as “religious,” according to reports by Church Statistics, church membership in the country declined from 10.6 million in 1930 to 5.5 million in 2010 — or from 30% to 11.2% of the total population. In 2013, the latest year of the survey, that percentage further declined to 10.3%. From 1980 to 2015, church attendance fell from 11.8% of the population to 5% of the population, according to Brierley Consultancy, which compiled the data for Church Statistics.
However, the rapid decline in church attendance is coupled with rising interest in spirituality among young people. A 2020 YouGov survey found that Britain’s Generation Z — older teens and young adults — are more likely to believe in God than millennials — the group one generation older. The survey found 23% of Britons aged 16 to 24 said they believe in God in November 2020 — up from 21% in January — suggesting that the pandemic may have encouraged more to believe. An additional 13% said that they believe in a higher power.
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“Despite the narrative that the UK is a growing secular society, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is actually a growing spirituality in the nation,” Gamble said in an email statement. “If younger generations are exploring faith and spirituality online and in non-traditional ways it shouldn’t be a matter of debate, but should be encouraged and embraced.”
The colossal infinity loop art piece is intended to become a landmark monument and a place for reflection and conversations about the meaning of prayer in people’s lives. It will be designed with 1 million bricks, each of which will tell a hopeful story of someone who was helped by God. Visitors will have access to the stories by pointing their cellphones toward the bricks.
“Many are now discovering that prayer is not a response of last resort but a conversation with God,” Gamble said. “Different faiths have different perspectives of God as a higher being, but Christianity teaches that God is a relational being who listens to our prayers and answers those prayers, sometimes in ways we could never have anticipated. Prayer without some expectation and hope of an answer is akin to talking in an empty room.”
While visitors will have a chance to express their own experiences with prayer regardless of faith, the organization has emphasized that the Eternal Wall will be a public art piece dedicated to Jesus alone.
“We want to see Jesus’ miraculous and loving nature celebrated through these answered prayers and believe that the one million testimonies will ignite faith, and belief in the power of prayer on a national level,” the foundation states on its website.
The project, a monument of public prayer, is expected to break ground in spring 2022 and estimates it will draw 300,000 annual visitors.
This story was originally published by Religion Unplugged.
Sofia Kioko is an intern for Religion Unplugged and the 2021-2022 Arne Fieldstead scholar at the John McCandlish Phillips Journalism Institute at The King’s College in New York. She hails from Brazil.