’s Interfaith Sanctuary is now serving not only as a place of worship and reflection for hospital visitors, but as a model for America’s interfaith efforts.
A group of journalists from Ankara, Turkey, recently visited the hospital sanctuary on a grant from the U.S. Department of State as part of a series of programs on and about Muslim integration in the U.S., the hospital announced this week.
It was the second of two such visits, explained Alan Botto, senior producer/director with the U.S. Office of Foreign Broadcast Support. Botto had previously escorted a television crew from Bahrain to visit the hospital when the sanctuary was still under construction.
“We were impressed with the project even back then,” said Botto. “To see it complete is especially gratifying. It’s a beautiful space.”
The project to expand the chapel at OHMC dates back several years to the realization that the existing chapel was too small and that it was important to embrace the diversity of patients, staff and the community.
The , who founded the original chapel in honor of his wife, Mary, served as the honorary chairperson of the needed to triple the size of the old chapel and include religious symbols of significance to people of all the major faiths in the community. The sanctuary is now a space that can either be shared or separated by sliding glass doors, so that people can worship separately and together at the same time.
“This space was meant to be a uniting space,” said Michael Geheb, MD, executive vice president of physician planning and operations for Oakwood Healthcare. Dr. Geheb was the hospital president when the expansion project was under way and executive sponsor of capital campaign. “We needed a space where we could all come together. It is a testament to Oakwood’s value of diversity, being a place where all faith traditions are respected and cherished.”
The sanctuary was completed in 2011, and has since served as a focal point for visitors, patients and staff alike, according to Oakwood staff chaplain coordinator Rev. Tony Marshall.
“It was a community effort,” he said. “We think it’s important to embrace our cultural and religious diversity; it’s something that, especially in Dearborn, that city officials and religious leaders are very particular about.”
Bulent Kaya, the diplomat correspondent from Ankara, said he was impressed by the sanctuary as well as the commitment to diversity he saw at the hospital.
“It is a beautiful space,” he said, adding that it was the largest he’d seen. “These things are very important. It is good to see.”