Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Opening of St Luke's Chapel, Queens Hospital

Queen's Hospital, Romford is part of the view that I have from the back windows of my flat (whatever you might think of the architecture, it is much better than the rusty gas holders which are another part of the view!). It is a new hospital, built under a PFI (Private Finance Initiative) project. It replaced the earlier Oldchurch Hospital, which was located just across the road from the location of the new hospital. "Oldchurch" was named because its site was the site of the old Church, the first Church opened in Romford in 1177. The chapel in Oldchurch Hospital was dedicated to St Luke and, I understand, Mass was said there at one time.

When Queen's Hospital opened in 2006, a multi-faith prayer room was part of the design. This is readily accessible from the Hospital's entrance area. The Department of Spiritual and Pastoral Care (what most people would recognise as the Chaplaincy) have three full time staff and range of supporting staff, including a Catholic chaplain. A team of lay volunteers undertake regular visiting of patients on the wards; a system of "bank" chaplains provide an on-call service at any time of day (Catholic priests are on-call, too); and patients, relatives or ward staff are able to access the service of the department by a referral system.

Today has seen the opening of a Christian chapel at Queens Hospital, making use of a room that otherwise was not being used. The room has an altar, and stained glass windows representing the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations (cf Revelation 22:1-2): "Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."

The text from the hospital magazine describing this event is as follows:

The Bishop of Barking, the Rt Revd David Hawkins, is coming to Queen’s Hospital to conduct a special service. The Bishop - the most senior in the area - will be given a tour of the building by Hospital Chaplain Tim Coleman before leading a service to dedicate the new St Luke’s Chapel.

Queen’s already has a popular multi-faith prayer room, but it was felt that we needed somewhere more appropriate for Christians to worship. Staff and patients can use the Chapel and the prayer room for worship, or just for some quiet reflection.

The rooms, and our chaplains, are available for everyone, regardless of their beliefs.

The original idea for opening this Chapel came from the Hospital Trust's Director of Nursing who, I understand, has a very strong commitment to spiritual care as part of the care given to patients in the hospital.

The participation of representatives of a range of Christian denominations in the opening service reflects the ecumenical nature of hospital chaplaincy work, and this was something the Revd David Hawkins referred to in his address. Some time ago now I heard the observation made in the context of port chaplaincy and I think it applies as much to hospital chaplaincy: ecumenical chaplaincy means that more ships (or, in the case of a hospital, more patients) are able to receive visits. It seems to me that it is in practical activity like this that the true nature of ecumenism can be seen.


Rita said...

I'm glad they are no longer surved by a simple "multi faith area" like most airports are now.

However, I offer two notes of caution. Firstly, I've seen a Christian chapel in a hospital with a split tabernacle, half for Anglican Communion, half for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. I am somewhat uneasy about this.

Secondly, my poor old mother-in-law got very confused in hospital in her final weeks, she was convinced the Catholic Chaplain was an Anglican. The nurses were also a little ignorant and said that often the Anglican chaplain would provide communion for the Catholics, if the Catholic Chaplain could not be found.

Unfortunately, we Christians just don't operate like one big happy family, despite what our separated brethren may think.

Joe said...

St Luke's chapel does not have a tabernacle, and there are certainly no plans for Catholics to reserve the Blessed Sacrament there.

The Roman Catholic chaplain at Queens has been very good at two things: one has been encouraging Catholic lay people to train as pastoral visitors with the hospital, and the second has been that of being clear about the need for Catholic patients to receive the Sacraments from a Catholic priest.