Monday, January 24, 2011

Going to the Chapel

I mentioned in a previous post my wandering to the chapel at the hospital.  What I didn’t share, and what I would like to explore now, is what I discovered while I was there.

The door has a small stained glass inset of something that looks like green fire or a bush.  Or maybe it is some other color.  I honestly can’t say.  It was terribly late; I was terribly tired; my mind was terribly distracted.

I opened the door and there, before me, was a backlit stained glass image of white and branches and green leaves with a couple of red cardinals.  (Hmmm . . . the cardinal is typically associated with the blood of Christ but is also associated with personal power in less Christian terms.  I guess only men have personal power because the association is clearly linked with the red coloring and female cardinals are not the same vivid red.  Carry that a step further and I guess that means that the blood of Christ has nothing to do with female cardinals?  Gah!  I’m over-thinking.)

So I look away from this and to the wall where I see a generic image of Jesus Christ as Shepherd, complete with lambs and such.  The sort of boring picture one would expect to find in an illustrated Bible or family Bible and a far cry from what I would consider artistic.  (Oh well.  Did I really expect no Christian imagery?  Or great art?)  I keep looking.  Beside the "painting" we have a relief Christ’s healing hands and then on the rear wall another stained glass window, backlit, that has nothing.  Just a design.

A kneeling bench in front of the main stained glass window . . . so people can pray to the cardinals?  Now I’m confused.  And probably sleep deprived.  The bench is practically smacked up against the window so to kneel there you have to remain fairly upright and not really lean into the armrest.  Beside this is a large Bible, open to some passage.  I started flipping through it, amused by people scrawling across the page “I Love God” and “Me TOO!”

Seriously?  Graffiti in a Bible?  I shook my head and continued to flip through, reading some of the marginal notes people added.  Not all the added content was so irrelevant and/or irreverent.  This particular Bible was a Catholic one so I turned it to Sirach 38.  Why?  Because I could.

I then moved to a table where there were some more Bibles and a small New Testament with Psalms, the kind typically given to military men and high school students.  And one Bible Story book.  No Hebrew Bible with only the Old Testament.  And no Qur’an.  I even opened the drawer to see if there was anything in there, hidden, like the Dao De Jing or maybe some sutras.  Nope.  No Book of Mormon or Science and Health with Key to Scriptures (albeit I suppose one would hardly find a Christian Scientist in a hospital, let alone in the hospital chapel but I digress yet again).

My attention then turned to the display where I found two prayer cards and a small booklet entitled “Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled” except they couldn’t be troubled to write the word “Heart” and just have a red one there front and center.  Needless to say, this booklet is a collection of quotes from the Bible, Old and New Testament.   There’s even a bit inside where you can confess your sins, sign your name, and be saved.  (Is this to suggest that your sin is why you are in the chapel in distress?  I know, it’s meant to be there for comfort in an hour of need but from a less sympathetic perspective, I really can understand how hostile the new atheists are towards religion when I see things like this.)  The two prayer cards refer to “God” and “Lord” with no specific call on Christ. God is referred to as “Father” on one and the “Holy Spirit” is mentioned on the other.  I think it’s safe to say that the slant here is still clearly Christian but perhaps not.

A sat in a pew and thought to myself how disappointing it all was.  A pretty little room meant to only meet the spiritual needs of a single demographic.  I then stood up and took the brochure “Pastoral Care” and took that with me to the cafeteria where I got myself some hot decaf coffee and proceeded to read.  Here are some direct quotes:
  • Enhancing healing and wholeness by attending to people’s spiritual needs
  • Because spirit is an important dimension of human wholeness . . .
  • We seek to embody compassion, confidential support for people of all faiths and backgrounds . . .
  • An interfaith chapel . . .
  • Copies of scriptures and holy writings are available from various traditions
And here is their mission statement with emphasis added:
To provide quality spiritual, emotional and religious support to patients, families, staff and community of (hospital name) in an inclusive, respectful, and timely manner.  This is accomplished by the collaboration of staff chaplains, community clergy, and trained Pastoral Care Volunteers.
I did a little research and all of the “community clergy” come from the Christian community.  Now if the literature didn’t clearly state “inclusive” and “all faiths” and such, I would just assume the chapel is meant to be Christian and only for Christian patients, families, etc.  But they clearly state that this is not true.

So upon returning home, what did I do?  

I searched my bookcases for sacred writings from other spiritual paths and asked Rob to please put out a request on his facebook page.  If you are reading this blog post and wish to donate a sacred text or sacred writing, please do.  I shall gather as much as I can to deliver to the hospital in a few weeks.

I will add to the bottom of this post any texts that I have or am being given by you.  Look for this post to be updated.


(Please note, I tried to write the above so you would experience my thoughts much as they flitted about in my own head.  The parenthetical asides offer a peek into how my sleep deprived and highly stressed mind was working at the time.)


  1. Satia - Particularly considering you were tired, it’s remarkable how thoughtful you were during your time in the chapel. But please open your thought wider to the possibility of encountering a Christian Scientist in a hospital or in a hospital chapel, that he or she would be there supporting and praying for people. Sure as a Christian Scientist, I’ve had a healthy life without availing myself much of medical care, but I’ve been in hospitals and hospital chapels plenty. The next time you see someone praying in a hospital chapel don’t be surprised if it’s a Christian Scientist! Best, Curtis Wahlberg

  2. Curtis, Thank you and you are right. As I parenthetically commented at the end, much of the post was meant to show the irrational distractions of my mind at the time. I am, however, quite serious about collecting sacred texts to share because I was/am hugely disappointed by the lack of a truly ecumenical representation. If you or someone you know has something they would like to donate, feel free to email me. I'm eager to deliver as many resources as I can and only have two myself to give.