Small space, big hearts

July 16, 2007
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After a Greenville minister was forced to comfort some of his bereaved church members in a busy hallway at Spectrum Health United Memorial Hospital one weekend in May, Shirley Hayes got a telephone call.

“It gets a little uncomfortable, meeting with families in hallways or a crowded space,” said Hayes, executive director of the Spectrum Health United Memorial Foundation. “He said he is looking forward to having a space with a pastoral feeling and nice environment.”

That is space expected to be available this month, with the completion of a non-denominational chapel at the Greenville hospital. The 15-member Greenville Ministerial Association, with chapel champions Rev. Jerry Jones of First Congregational Church and Rev. Madelyn Thompson of Greenville Community Church, has raised enough money to cover nearly all of the chapel’s $136,000 price tag, including a $50,000 matching grant from an anonymous donor.

“It’s our belief that there’s a holistic wellness that includes the physical, emotional and spiritual,” said Jones, president of the association and a member of the hospital foundation board of directors. “Not to address all three is something less than total wellness.”

The 320-square-foot Seasons of Life Chapel is being tucked into a hallway between the emergency department and the Hendrik & Gezina Meijer Surgery & Patient Care Center.

“It’s a small space, but it’s going to be very lovely and meaningful,” Hayes said.

Designed by the same Colorado architecture firm that worked on the Patient Care Center, the chapel will feature woodwork and stained glass windows in a seasonal theme by The Pristine Glass Co., a Grand Rapids firm.

“For us, in general, at United Memorial, there really is no private area to take people when they are experiencing grief or tremendous tragedy,” said Thompson, who also is a chaplain for Heartland Hospice. “They are experiencing that in front of everybody in the hallways. It’s important to be able to bring someone to a place where they feel it’s quiet and safe, to bring someone out of the elements where everyone is watching them and walking by and they are on display, and to be able to pray when they’re waiting for someone in surgery.”

With support from Greenville’s churches, advertisements in the Greenville Daily News and a June concert fundraiser, Hayes said the goal is in sight. She said she’s proud of the Ministerial Association and the community for making the chapel a priority, and wonders how the 65-bed United Memorial managed to survive for 50 years without it.

The Seasons of Life Chapel will be dedicated Dec. 2, during the annual Tree of Light event that commemorates loved ones. A plaque featuring names of the donors will be unveiled at that time, Hayes said.

“It’s not been a hard sell,” Jones added. “People have been very responsive to it. This community has had some economic hard times with Electrolux closing and so on, but it’s one that still understands the vital importance of our spiritual wellness.”     HQ

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