Call for new hospital to have Christian chapel

Christian leaders across the South have urged project managers to rethink having only a multi-faith centre in the new Dunedin Hospital.

The centre is being proposed by Southern District Health Board staff as an alternative to either a standalone Christian chapel or a chapel and a multi-faith centre, as planners work with what will be limited space in the new building.

Staff say the trend is for multi-faith centres in new hospitals and there is not enough space or budget for both.

But a petition signed by 52 people, mainly leaders of Presbyterian congregations across the South, but also including the Anglican Bishop of Dunedin, the Right Rev Stephen Benford, seeks assurance from the health board that a Christian chapel and an office for chaplains be given priority for the new hospital.

The signatures are attached to a letter to New Dunedin Hospital programme director Hamish Brown, from Leith Valley Presbyterian Church minister the Rev Richard Dawson, which calls for hospital planners to revisit their plans and include a "discernable Christian presence" in the new hospital.

"Hospitals and the health systems in which they operate can largely be said to be an invention of the church and they certainly rely on values espoused by the church throughout its 2000-year history," Mr Dawson writes.

"More than this, however, is the concern that the Christian faith will not be primarily represented within a city founded on Christian principles and a country in which, still, the largest group of people claiming religious adherence are Christian."

He argued non-denominational chaplains at the new hospital would administer to the spiritual needs of anyone using the hospital, but said the nature of modern hospitals was due to the impact of Christian churches on ancient military hospitals.

And he asked that "the faith tradition upon which this nation and this city have relied on to guide them in forming an holistic health system be duly recognised".

A report the health board will consider today seeks its endorsement of the multi-faith centre, so that can feed into planning for the design of the new hospital.

In the report, Mr Brown said space allocated for the religious centre in the new hospital’s plans would be halved from chapel space at Dunedin Hospital at present, from about 150sqm to about 75sqm.

The proposed religious space would have a prayer room, a wash room, interview room and a pastoral care workers’ shared office.

He noted the health board’s leadership team endorsed the plan because it agreed it was important to provide a holistic, spiritual place reflective of a growing diversity of population and spiritual needs.

Providing for one faith above others could lead to a perception of inequity, he said.

His report noted that between the 2006 and 2018 censuses the number of Otago people who identifed as Christian dropped from more than half (54.1%) to about a third (33.4%).

Those identifying with no religion rose from 38.8% in 2006 to 55.8% in 2018.

Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Maori religions, beliefs and philosophies, and "others" all remained marginal at 0% to 2%.


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Church infirmaries were fine, apart from the Hotfoot.

"His report noted that between the 2006 and 2018 censuses the number of Otago people who identifed as Christian dropped from more than half (54.1%) to about a third (33.4%)."
What are the numbers for those that are using the hospital ?
I think you'd find that when faced with your own mortality or the loss of a loved one, that this ideological driven, materialist world we live in shows it's true colours.
This is usually the time that people reflect on their lives, assessing what was of real value, what gave their lives meaning, why they made certain choices and their consequences, those they hurt, manipulated, used and abused. Only the self righteous, entitled, lacking in self awareness or a conscience are not pained by such thoughts.
Questions must be asked as to the link between the drastic fall in the mental health of this country and the hedonistic, self constructed morality that prevails.
It's ironic, that at a time when the government spends billions on mental health the SDHB decides to half the space for such contemplation and support passed down for generations, simply because of their contemptuous understanding of what religion is all about & their elitist attitudes!!

Perhaps the Christians should read their own book and learn to share instead of wanting to have all the religious space for themselves.
Philippians 2:3-4
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Wow. Of all the potential debates that could be had over the inevitably scarce space in the hospital. Theatres, ICU, NICU, ED, beds in any ward.
These arrogant, self righteous, self entitled hypocrites want tax payers dollars (how much per m2 on a hospital?) spent on exclusive prayer space!
Absolutely incredible! Let the medical leaders in their fields argue their case for more space, and for you Christian "Leaders"? Well. My thoughts and prayers go to every God, including yours, for humility, in the hope you see how arrogant, divisive and out of touch your request is.

Your country responded in unison to the Mosque attack. We are one.
A public assertion from Christian "Leaders" for exclusivity, in any public building or space, let alone a new hospital, is so offensive and out of touch, it (ironically perhaps) defies belief!

I write as Chair of the Chaplaincy Support Trust for Dunedin Hospital and as a longstanding staff member of the SDHB and along with our lead chaplain, clinical and other staff of the hospital have been involved in planning for the multi-faith centre in the New Dunedin Hospital and accept that although the space available may be about half of that currently enjoyed, that sharing that space with our sisters and brothers of other faiths may be an expression of that 'arohanui' that is a core component of Christian faith and practice. Specific design of the multi faith space, with chapel and prayer room, is yet to be done but the expectation is that some Christian symbolism and stained glass will be incorporated in the design and that the new space, sited in its level one garden setting will be a place for quiet reflection and will be suitable as a gathering place for worship and for special services. It needs emphasising that chaplaincy is done largely in the wards and workplaces of patients and staff and that as the new 'digital' hospital is developed that chaplaincy will also be utilising digital connectivity to enhance provision of spiritual care and support to those in need.

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