Design of Chapel at Cook Children's Medical Center - Prosper Welcomes All Faiths
Medicine for the Soul: Artwork Pulls in Perspective of Children to Instill Hope
By Jean Yaeger
Splashes of water flow with a soothing sound for those who seek contemplation and peace at the Cook Children’s Medical Center – Prosper chapel.
Sunlight enters softly through pastel flourishes on the windows. A table displays the Bible, the Quran, the Tanakh, and a few children’s books. Slips of paper are available if someone wants to write a prayer request. Visitors may also use the prayer rugs folded in a basket.
The Prosper Medical Center opened in January 2023, and since then its nondenominational chapel has offered a respite for people of any religious background or no particular faith. You won’t see fixtures resembling the interior of a church, temple or mosque. That’s because the chapel was designed to be an inclusive and nurturing environment for all people.
“It’s a sacred space for everybody to feel seen, to feel welcome, to feel valued no matter what their faith tradition or their life journey may be,” said Jennifer Hayes, M. Div., Cook Children’s Director of Spiritual Care.
While it’s not for public use, the chapel is open all hours for patients admitted to the Prosper Medical Center and their families. Hospital employees frequently stop in too. There’s a sense of tranquility and rest -- for the body, mind and soul.
“The employees especially enjoy the beautiful ambient sound from the water feature. It creates a space to retreat and reflect or to simply take some time to recharge,” said Amanda Payne Lindsay, M.Div., a chaplain at the Prosper Medical Center. “It’s really beautiful when I come in the chapel and see that both the prayer mats and the Bibles have been used. We offer a place for everyone to honor their faith.”
Imagination and Collaboration
With the help of Cook Children’s patients, McKinney artist Jim Wilson is creating a custom mixed medium artwork to be hung on a blank wall of the chapel. Child Life specialists handed out “Chapel Art Bags” with supplies that patients used to paint, sketch or write words that will help shape the commissioned artwork. For inspiration, the bags contained a few prompts:
- What is God like?
- What is love?
- What questions do you have for God?
- What makes you feel better?
An 11-year-old, for instance, drew heart-shaped bubbles blown from a wand. Another submission features the wisdom of a 3-year-old: “Doctors help me feel brave. Daddy and Mama make me feel brave.”
Wilson is working to incorporate the patients’ contributions – plus maps, photos and materials that reflect Cook Children’s history -- into an abstract collage roughly 4.5 x 6.5 feet in size. Wilson plans to cut up the papers, glue the fragments to a panel, add paint, sand it, and apply an acrylic finish. He envisions a cohesive tapestry assembled from many parts.
“Hopefully there will be a lightness to it, a joy infused into it, peace and serenity,” he said.
His collaborators – the children – will be able to see glimpses of their efforts in the end result, which Wilson expects to complete by the end of 2023. He says it’s an honor to produce an installation that may help console and support future chapel-goers who face circumstances of grief or fear.
“I feel a sense of responsibility,” Wilson said. “If I can be part of a team that makes what these people are going through a little bit easier or a little bit more peaceful, then I’ve been a part of a wonderful thing.”
Hayes predicts the chapel centerpiece will showcase the track record of generosity and respect in the culture at Cook Children’s. “And the hope that our goodness will continue to positively impact our community,” she said.
Spirituality through Connections
The Spiritual Care team at Cook Children’s has the training and resources to engage with patients at every age in meaningful ways that reflect their faith traditions. The job encompasses a calling to listen with kindness, give guidance, serve as an advocate, and tend to hurting spirits. They don’t judge or try to convert anyone.
Often, the first contact the Spiritual Care department makes with families is through the beloved PrayerBear program. Volunteers gave away almost 17,000 PrayerBears at Cook Children’s Medical Center – Fort Worth in 2022. The gift of a PrayerBear encourages and comforts patients during their stay in the hospital.
Hayes points out that playfulness is key to building rapport with a young child. A chaplain might speak in a silly voice pretending to be the PrayerBear. And the chaplain finds out what’s important to the child. She recalled a time she helped a constipated patient pray about … well, pooping.
“You have to be willing to step out of what some people would deem typical clerical behavior,” she said. “You have to be able to laugh. You have to be able to play games. Because if you can't tend to their spirit without using overtly religious language in the small things, then they're not going to trust you in those big things.”
Teenage patients might feel angry or ask hard questions related to their health challenges. Hayes said the chaplains strive to help teens process their emotions and find hope. Spiritual Care also serves parents and siblings, if desired.
For those who have no specific faith tradition or religious beliefs, the Spiritual Care team can minister to the universal need for connection and community. “Every single person we encounter has that thread of humanity,” she said.
Hayes wants to bust the myth that hospital chaplains push religion on people or condemn those who don’t adhere to a particular faith.
“We're kind of like the scaffolding of buildings," Hayes said. "We’re there to support you when you feel like you're falling down. And if that's what you need in that moment, then we're going to do everything that we can to be that scaffolding and to uphold you."
Chaplains at the Cook Children's medical centers in Fort Worth and Prosper provide the spiritual support you desire. We accompany patients and their families with a compassionate presence. Our Spiritual Care team can connect you to worship services, provide a PrayerBear or prayer journal, arrange for a blessing ceremony, consult on ethical issues, and much more.