More use soon of faith space

A handful of people have used the Dunedin city library's spiritual and prayer space since its...
A handful of people have used the Dunedin city library's spiritual and prayer space since its formal opening last month. Anticipating a pick-up once Covid-19 restrictions have eased are (from left) Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group chairwoman Ruth Groffman, library services manager Bernie Hawke and Otago Muslim Association representative Dr Haizal Hussaini. PHOTO: CHRISTINE O'CONNOR
The Dunedin city library’s spiritual and prayer space had only just had its official opening when the doors were closed because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Even now, under Alert Level 2, one person — or one bubble of people — is permitted in each of the two rooms at a time.

A handful of people have used the facility so far, but it is expected usage will pick up when Covid-19 restrictions ease.

The space on the first floor of the library was created to provide quiet rooms for visitors to pray, meditate or worship.

It is divided into two rooms — one for women only and a second for people of all genders and faiths and for those who do not subscribe to any particular faith.

Dunedin City Council library services manager Bernie Hawke said the rooms were created in response to community requests.

They were consistent with the library’s role as a safe and welcoming community space that aimed to meet the needs of a diverse community, he said.

The spiritual and prayer space was opened on August 10 with a karakia and speeches.

The initial concept was for an interfaith prayer room and a Muslim praying space, but it had since evolved.

Former University of Otago chaplain Rev Greg Hughson was part of the consultation process and said the rooms were an inclusive space where people could have some time out.

Mr Hawke said the female-only room was established to respect protocols for particular faiths and for women who felt more comfortable praying separately.

The rooms were available upon request or could be booked in advance.

They would normally accommodate about six people each.

Individuals using the rooms during Level 2 could remove their face coverings.

The space is understood to be a first for a public library in New Zealand.

Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group chairwoman Ruth Groffman said the city was leading the way in providing community facilities for various purposes.

The space was created by partitioning off some of the first floor’s public reading room, at a cost of about $15,000.

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