KGH’s Sacred Space opens

Sacred Space welcomes patients, visitors and staff of all faiths and cultures 24 hours a day, seven days a week

Kelowna General Hospital’s new sacred space officially opens today – offering patients

Kelowna General Hospital’s new sacred space officially opens today – offering patients

A new place of worship is open at Kelowna General Hospital.

KGH’s new Sacred Space officially opened Friday – offering patients, families and staff a meaningful place for worship, meditation, celebration and prayer.

The specially designed room, where all people, regardless of faith are welcome, was put together with the input of representatives from the many different faith groups in the city.

Intentionally “faith neutral”  it does not incorporate any symbols on the walls and is meant to be a quiet peaceful place of meditation, contemplation, reflection and, if a person worship nd prayer. Materials from all faiths are available and kept in a cabinet when not in use so everyone using the room will feel welcome.

Funded through the KGH Foundation and individual donations, there are no donors or amounts donated to the project listed on the wall. That was a deliberate attempt to make it clear everyone is welcome whether they contributed a little, a lot, or nothing at all. But also to make it clear no one is to feel marginalized there, said Derek Koch, spiritual health practitioner at KGH and the man many credited with spearheading the project.

He pointed to what he described as the incredible working relationship between the representatives of the many faith groups in the city who participated in the planning and realization of the project.

In remarks during and after the official opening Friday, Rabbi Shmuly Hecht of Chabad-Lubavitch Okanagan, speaking on behalf of the Spiritual Care Advisory Committee at KGH, said he hopes to see the example set by the committee, and its work on the Sacred Space, filter out into the community and beyond because it shows how people of different faiths can work together.

“There I was sitting with a Muslim on one side and a Christian on the other side, and me in the middle. And we were working together. It was a beautiful thing.” said Hecht.

On Friday, representatives of local Catholics, Mormons, Buddhists, Jews, Baha’is, First Nations, Sikhs, Muslims, members of the Centre For Spiritual Living, the Kelowna Christian Community  and the Pagan community all came together to light candles floating in water as a symbolic sign of unity to open the Sacred Space at KGH.

While some said a prayer as they lit their candle, others read from their holy books and still others spoke of the importance of the space in a place where spiritual care can often take a backseat to physical care. But, as was pointed out, spiritual care can aid physical recovery.

Light and modern, the new Sacred Space is located on the ground floor in the hospital’s Centennial building and replaces the old chapel at KGH.

It now welcomes patients, visitors and staff of all faiths and cultures 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The space is also designed to accommodate First Nation smudging and smoke ceremonies and has a screen and audio-visual system for projecting images and a piano.

The total cost of the sacred space was $140,000, with half the funds provided by the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation, and the other half from fundraising with faith groups and individual donors throughout the Central Okanagan.

“The spiritual care facility is an important component to the overall care of patients at the hospital,” said Jeff Bjorgan, lead pastor at Emmanuel Church in West Kelowna, whose congregation gave $15,000 to support the project. “We’re excited to be a part of this community endeavour.”

The sacred space is located next to the Murray Ramsden boardroom in an area that previously housed meeting rooms. The planning process for the space included consultation with the Central Okanagan Spiritual Care Advisory team, which consists of Interior Health staff, members of various faith groups and First Nations representatives.

“Sacred spaces in our hospitals contribute to our goal of delivering high-quality care in a way that is inclusive of all who walk through the doors,” said John O’Fee, Interior Health board chair. “On behalf of Interior Health, I would like to thank the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation and all those who generously helped make this new space a reality.”