That Word Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

Along with bus drivers who close the door in your face, umbrellas that turn inside out, and the hold music on Virgin Broadband Support, one of the great irritations in my life is with hospital and hospice interfaith rooms, most of which seem to have been designed by someone who thinks that there are no different faiths, only different versions of Christianity. I have the privilege of being one of the Christians at whom they are aimed, but I’m still annoyed by how little thought is put into making them an inclusive space.

Indeed, the most inclusive one I’ve been to has as its focal point a poster with a quote from Isaiah. It has no other form of decoration. Nothing from Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism to balance out the giant beacon to Judeo-Christianity.

I went into one once in a Catholic facility, where they were perfectly upfront about the fact that this was a Catholic facility and therefore this was a Catholic chapel. I respected them for their honesty.

Then, there was the time last year when I was on the first day of a two day hospice placement and was being shown around by one of the doctors. The interfaith room, which was called the interfaith room, was the last stop on our five cent tour. I passed the holy water dispenser that was fixed to the wall outside (and had to consciously refrain from using it, because apparently old habits do die hard). I entered the room and saw on the opposite wall a set of intricately carved Stations of the Cross. I turned to face the altar, which was covered in a white altar frontal and had on it a tabernacle that was bigger than my wardrobe and hanging above it a crucifix large enough to have been the actual cross on which Jesus was hung. I looked to one side of the altar and there was an eight-feet tall statue of the Blessed Virgin.

And I turned back to the doctor, who gestured to it all and said beatifically, “It’s all non-denominational, of course.”



  1. Awesome! I’m sure that there are any number of denominations which would be happy to provide you with literature to distribute … in the various interfaith chapels. I’d be keen to see the looks on people’s faces, actually. I wonder if you could get a candid camera involved….

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