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Oakwood Sanctuary Redesigned to Welcome All Denominations

An April 13 rededication ceremony celebrates Oakwood Hospital's new interfaith sanctuary.

In a gathering appropriately attended by people of all faiths, all ethnicities and even all ages, Oakwood Healthcare rededicated its new interfaith Frank C. and Mary T. Padzieski Sanctuary at the Dearborn-based on April 13.

The restructuring of the space, Oakwood and religious leaders agreed, will help the hospital to welcome people of all faiths in times of need.

“It is the spirit of healing that is at the geographic center of the hospital,” said Dr. Michael Geheb, division president of Oakwood Healthcare. “This is a place people come (to in times of) great stress, great anxiety; no one wants to be in the hospital. So we take care of your physical needs, but we’re also going to give you a space where you can personally address your spiritual needs.”

The project expanded the old chapel from about 650 square feet to more than 1,000 square feet, and includes stained glass windows that celebrate multiple faiths. There is seating for up to 100 people. Still planned is an obelisk near the entrance that will include the word ‘God’ in all faith languages of the world and in every human script.

The space was designed, Geheb explained, to represent the intersections of various faiths and the need for people to learn from each other’s religions. Shaped like two intersecting circles, the sanctuary can serve as one large room, or be separated by a glass partition.

“When they’re closed, you can always observe other people and learn to respect their faith tradition,” Geheb said of their reasons for choosing see-through glass instead of wood. “We learn from each other, we respect each other, we come together because of our common humanity.”

Bill Abbatt, who with his wife, Candyce, was one of the top donors for the $1.3-million project, said the space will serve patients as much as their visiting friends and family.

“While a patient is under our roof having crossed our threshold, friends and family members also are guests of the hospital,” he said. “It is the sanctuary that serves friends and family directly and the patient indirectly because the stronger the support group, the more effective it can be.”

Rev. Tony Marshall, a chaplain at the hospital, did not lead the group in prayer, but encouraged them to think about what the interfaith sanctuary means in the greater scope of the world we live in.

“With all the wars and fighting and division, separation amongst race, ethnicity, religion … our god took some Christians and Muslims and Jews, Hindus, Agnostics, Atheists and we all sat at the table together with one common plan: to create a holy and sacred place for people that are hurting,” he said. “I wish we could take this message to the far ends of the earth and say that when we work together, we really can get it right.”

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