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An Interfaith Department

Being an interfaith department means we value, honor and respect the religious diversity in our Health System. UVa Health System chaplains seek to provide spiritual care and understanding among people of all faiths. We have many religious resources at hand to serve patient, family and staff needs. Our residents, interns and staff are informed through our Interfaith Committee.

The Interfaith Committee

History of the Interfaith Committee
Religious Beliefs and Practices Affecting Health Care

The Interfaith Committee of the Department of Chaplaincy Services and Pastoral Education has been in existence since 1994. With an increase in the number of patients, families, and staff representing the world's major religions, the faculty of the Department invited local clergy to form a group to address the associated spiritual and religious needs. Those invited were: the University of Virginia Hillel Foundation's director, the Imam for the Muslim community, the Geshe for the Buddhist community, and a Swami from Yogaville, an ashram in Central Virginia. An assistant professor for Chaplaincy Services and Pastoral Education represented the Protestant religions. The five world religions represented on the Interfaith Committee are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu. Because a large number of people we serve are Roman Catholic, the Interfaith Committee recommended that the priest from the parish which serves the hospital also become a member. The Committee chose to name religions in order of the representative number of people served in the hospital.

One of the group's earlier, important activities was the 1995 dedication service of the
Interfaith Chapel, located on the first floor of the University Hospital.

A Place to Reflect

interfaithgroupLeaders from several faiths participated in blessings and prayers during dedication of the renovated chapel located near the University Hospital lobby. A renovation committee chaired by Mary Helen Detmer wanted to create a non-denominational space hospitable to spirituality. The project was financed by private donations, including $50,000 from the UVa School of Medicine Class of 1942. (photo/caption, LINK, Jan. 23, 1995)

Soon after the onset of the Interfaith Committee, a resource was requested by a member of the hospital nursing staff, which could be made available to staff so they, too, could better understand religious beliefs and health practices. In reviewing several publications, the Interfaith Committee did not find any that we considered satisfactory. We then agreed to make our own resource available to staff.

bookpicThe Committee members identified categories that each would address. Several writers consulted with resources within their own traditions. When it was time to publish Religious Beliefs and Practices Affecting Health Care, 1996, the religious traditions were alphabetized as a way to avoid size as a means of presentation.

The response to the publication has been very positive. Interdisciplinary staff, new employees, and now people in other pastoral care, counseling, and educational institutions have expressed interest in receiving copies of the publication. Hard copies of the booklet are available to the public for $5/copy or $50/dozen. Click here to order copies.

Members of the Interfaith Committee also participate in the
Medical Center Hour, a weekly offering at the University which is free and open to the public.