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Hospitals and Interfaith Spaces

In the 19th century, many hospitals were built by religious groups, and commonly contained chapels that resembled the churches or synagogues of specific denominations. However, as hospitals nationwide are beginning to take their religiously diverse patients and staff into account, hospitals are getting more creative and building multifaith meditation and quiet spaces.

Connie Johnstone, a former manager of spiritual care at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento, created three meditation rooms at Kaiser Permanente facilities in Sacramento and suburban Roseville, California. Connie designed the rooms with stained glass windows depicting nature scenes, movable chairs, kneelers for Catholic worshipers, space for Muslim prayer rugs and literature from a variety of faiths.
Some interfaith meditation rooms, like one of the Sacramento facilities, use neutral and non-denominational symbols. Across town, another Kaiser Permanente facility chose dozens of symbols which represent a plethora of different religious traditions to adorn their multifaith meditation space. Both methods create an inclusive space.
That’s not to say that the design of multifaith meditation or quiet rooms can’t be tricky – some administrators worry that stripping the rooms of all icons and symbols won’t actually increase the room’s use, but will actually make many feel uncomfortable in an unfamiliar space.
Still, there are many ways to allow individuals to make a multifaith space feel personal and useful. For example, Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital is planning to open a nondenominational chapel in addition to their Christian-style chapel and interfaith meditation room, which will feature a vertical rod to allow clergy to attach various religious emblems. A facility might provide safe storage space for individuals’ religious objects around the room. Tanenbaum commends the hospitals nationwide that are getting creative in their renovations and additions in an effort to accommodate the religiously diverse communities they serve.