April 06, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The lobby of The University of Kansas Hospital bustles daily, but now there's a quiet refuge just steps away.
The Bell Sanctuary opened as a place for prayer and meditation for patients, families, guests and staff. A companion to the sanctuary, the Respite Room, also opened near the lobby for families who need to meet privately or simply gather for a reflective moment.
Hospital and spiritual care leaders for years have talked about the need for a peaceful, meditative area that is more convenient for patients and visitors. The existing space, Spencer Chapel, was built in 1970 on the west side of the campus when almost all patient care took place in nearby buildings.
Designs for Bell Sanctuary took shape in 2015, with pioneering heart surgeon William Reed, MD, and his wife, Mary, making the lead gift for a fundraising campaign. The campaign was embraced by other physicians, the Auxiliary, staff and local philanthropists, including JE Dunn Construction and the Dunn family.
"We need to care for patients on more than just a physical level, being equally aware of their emotional and spiritual well-being," explains Reed. "We want to ensure we are providing patients and their families with a place that is conducive to a spiritual connection. This helps complete the circle of holistic care."
The sanctuary, which is open 24/7, may appear small from the hospital lobby, but inside it is bright, quiet and surprisingly spacious. Its nautilus shape is designed to invoke a faith-neutral and all-inclusive feel.
Indeed, the sanctuary welcomes all spiritual backgrounds. Wall niches display symbols of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Judaism. Different religious icons can be placed in the niches, as needed.
Inside the sanctuary's private prayer room is a Qibla, a symbol pointing to Mecca for those of Islam faith. A striking photograph – taken by cardiologist Charles Porter, MD of a group of fishermen in Veracruz, Mexico – provides a focal point on the prayer wall.
As then spiritual care resident Michelle Byerly observed, "Anyone can come here and feel welcome and comfortable."