A chapel for all

A hospital chapel at San Francisco General Hospital has been transformed into an open, comforting space for people of every faith…or of no faith.

The New York Times reports:

Until recently there was a large altar and pews that ran nearly the width of the room. Years earlier, a crucifix hung on the wall. Visually, at least, the chapel was a Roman Catholic place of worship.

Not anymore.

In a sign of changing times, the 1960s-era chapel is getting a decidedly modern face-lift. Work that is scheduled to be completed by December will transform the space to welcome all faiths, including Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Wiccans, Pagans — and even those who do not believe in any god at all.

“This is a public space,” said the Rev. Elizabeth Welch, an Episcopal priest serving at the hospital’s Sojourn Chaplaincy, which offers spiritual counseling. “Not everyone is Christian.”

The chapel is an interior room with no windows, but new flooring indicates the directions of the compass — essential for Muslims who must face east toward Mecca to pray, and vital to other beliefs, including Native American faiths and Wiccans. Moveable, nondenominational furnishings made from reclaimed teak are being added, allowing the chapel to be configured for a variety of ceremonies.

The renovations reflect how religious demographics have shifted. In the 1950s, half of the city’s population was Roman Catholic. When the hospital surveyed its patients in 2009 and asked about religious affiliation, the largest response (8,006 of nearly 18,000) was “no reported preference.”

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