Online religious services are gaining a young audience, according to a new survey. In a recent survey, more than a third of respondents aged 18-34 said they had “watched or listened to a religious service since lockdown.” This compares to one in five (19 per cent) of respondents over the age of 55.
The survey, conducted by market research company Savanta ComRes last month, also that reported one third of the 2,101 interview subjects said that they prayed since the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak because they believe “prayer makes a difference.” Almost one quarter (24 per cent) answered that they had prayed “to gain comfort or feel less lonely.”
The survey confirms a wider trend for prayer and worship during these uncertain times.
Over half a million people attempted to watch the Rededication of England to Mary online, causing the Walsingham website to crash. At the time, Mgr John Armitage said in his homily that bishops “could never have foreseen the extent of our need at this time.” He added, “In the face of the peril that we find ourselves in today, in addition to the physical resilience we need to protect ourselves, a stronger spiritual resilience will be needed to survive the ordeal ahead.”
Google has reported a surge in searches for the word “prayer,” with searches doubling for every 80,000 new cases of Covid-19 globally. In April, the Church of England launched a free telephone hotline for daily hymns, prayers and reflections. Daily Hope, which is open 24 hours a day, reported over 6,000 calls within its first day.
In response to the ComRes survey, Professor Stephen Bullivant says that the findings are “not wholly surprising, given everyone’s anxiety at the moment, and indeed a much higher-than-usual number of people in fear for their and their loved ones’ lives.” However, he warns that while the survey is “interesting and encouraging,” some reports are “overblown” and that there is evidence to suggest the proportion of people who prayed before the lockdown and now don’t is almost equal to those who did not pray before and now do.
The rise in people seeking solace in prayer reflects trends in the Middle Ages. Academics have suggested that the Hail Mary prayer was altered in the fourteenth century, with “pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death” being added at the time of the Plague. Marian historian Father Donald H. Calloway, states in his book Champions of the Rosary, that “the people of the 14th century greatly needed the ‘hope-filled’ dimension of the second half of the Hail Mary prayer.”
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