Next stop for On A Wing And A Prayer: the ‘church brought together by bats’

As our travelling art installation On A Wing And A Prayer tours project churches around the country, we look at the story behind its latest destination, St Peter's Church in Wintringham, the 'church brought together by bats'.

Panel from On A Wing And A Prayer art installation inside Wintringham church

Our unique multimedia art installation On A Wing And A Prayer will be on display at the Grade I listed medieval church of St Peter in Wintringham, Yorkshire this month. The installation arrived at St Peter's on February 1 and will remain on display until February 27, including at a special bat-themed community day on Saturday February 18.

St Peter’s church, cared for by our partners at The Churches Conservation Trust, had just two volunteers looking after it until early 2022.

A series of bat surveys organised by Bats in Churches discovered four species of bats using the church, including a significant maternity roost. This discovery led to the formation of the Friends of St Peter, Wintringham in August last year.

The church now has a dedicated village group of 25, an established volunteer rota and had a Christmas celebration attended by 40.

Church volunteer Ben Jenkinson says: ‘It was the bats that brought us back together. We now have a group of around 25 villagers who all have a passion for, or interest in, St Peter's, and what we all share and have all noticed is how the building and its bat population have brought the village closer together and re-established a community feel.’


Two panels from the On A Wing And A Prayer art installation on display inside the chancel of Wintringham church

The church will now celebrate its resident bats and rejuvenated community by hosting On A Wing And A Prayer for the month of February, and is organising a bat-themed community day for 10am to 2pm Sat February 18 to coincide with the exhibition. Visitors will be able to enjoy the exhibition along with batty arts and crafts, tours and children’s activities, with bat talks at 11am and 1pm.

Created by professional artist and Bats in Churches volunteer Ilene Sterns, On A Wing And A Prayer is an immersive and multi-layered artwork set to recordings of bats inside churches, slowed down to be audible to the human ear.

The artwork was commissioned by Bats in Churches to highlight the long-standing relationship between bats and churches, and to commemorate the project after it concludes in 2023.

Ilene said: ‘As an artist I have always found inspiration in nature and history. And as a Bats in Churches volunteer I have spent many hours marvelling at the remarkable winged mammals that make these ancient buildings their homes.’

The artwork was unveiled at the church of St Michael the Archangel in Compton Martin, Somerset, in October 2022. It was then moved to the church of St Sampson in Cricklade, Wiltshire for a special bat weekend attended by more than 500 members of the community.

Rose Riddell, engagement officer at Bats in Churches, said: ‘We are thrilled to have commissioned Ilene to create this atmospheric and immersive artwork celebrating our project. So far On A Wing And A Prayer has been a huge success and we are very excited to take the artwork to St Peter’s where it will celebrate and highlight how bats have brought new life to the church and its community.’

Mark Sproat, lead local community officer for the North at The Churches Conservation Trust added: ‘The CCT is excited and proud to host this fantastic installation at St Peter’s. It’s a great example of our strategy in practice. The village as a whole should be very proud of this installation and the progress it represents.’