Waters: An example to follow

In creating Kelowna General Hospital's new Sacred Space, 11 local faith leaders show how to work together.

Alistair Waters

Alistair Waters

In the these times of polarizing politics, the world could learn a lesson from a group of spiritual leaders in Kelowna.

Eleven representatives of organized religions and spiritual groups in the city came together to work on a single project—a replacement for the former chapel at Kelowna General Hospital.

The aim was simple—to create a space of contemplation, meditation reflection, and yes, even worship and prayer, where all would feel welcome regardless their beliefs.

With representatives of nearly a dozen faiths, beliefs and spiritual communities represented on the planning group, the potential for conflict was there.

But, as was seen by the end result last week when KGH’s new Sacred Space officially opened, any worry about competing interests trying to trump others was unfounded.

Typically, when there’s the possibility of dogma and doctrine being involved, a task such as the one undertaken at KGH could seem impossible. But not for the men and women involved in this project.

Here, something wonderful happened. And the beauty of it was the sheer simplicity of the approach. The will to work together, to create something greater than the sum of its parts, overrode any feeling of placing one belief above another.

On first blush, what was created appears to be just a simple, unadorned room. There are no religious symbols on display highlighting any one belief. Materials are available, discretely stored in cabinets, available to anyone who feels the need of the comfort they may provide.

But the room, no matter how cleverly designed to welcome all, is simply a room. What makes it special is the co-operative spirit that created it.

In the words of one member of the planning group, local Rabbi Shmuly Hecht, there he was, a Jew, sitting between a Muslim and a Christian and they were all working together to achieve the same goal. “It was a beautiful thing,” he said.

Beautiful in deed.

During the opening ceremony—attended by representatives of the Jewish, Muslim, Baha’i, Catholic, Anglican, Buddhist, Mormon and Sikh faiths, as well as representative of the new age Centre for Spiritual Living, the Pagan community and First Nations—Hecht said he hoped to see that same spirit of cooperation filter out, to not only the Kelowna community, but the world.

It’s a message that should be heeded, and heard by more than just those who were in the room at the time.

Recently, an Ontario MP revealed she received a flood of hate mail, and even death threats. Here “crime?” Calling on the federal Parliament to condemn Islamophobia, racial discrimination and intolerance. That is not what this country is all about. That is not my Canada.

It’s clear this is a time when the example set by the the faith leaders involved in the KGH Sacred Space project needs to be recognized…and followed.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.


Kelowna Capital News