Living Together Respectful of All
- By: Candace McKibben
February 2, 2017
In 2000, this community graciously helped Big Bend Hospice establish what is now called the Margaret Z. Dozier Hospice House. It is a twelve-bed skilled care facility that enables Big Bend Hospice to care for patients whose symptoms cannot be managed in the home setting, for the time it takes to get those symptoms under control. As is true of hospice care across the nation, the goal at Big Bend Hospice is to find ways to help people die with dignity and comfort in the setting that they call home. Sometimes it is the patient’s residence, sometimes it is the home of a family member, sometimes it is a nursing home or assisted-living facility that has become home to the patient. When patients and families come to our Hospice House for symptom management, it is our sincere desire to make them as comfortable as possible physically, emotionally and spiritually while they are with us. That is why we are excited about reimagining our Reflection Room in a way that will feel spiritually inviting and safe to all who enter the sacred space for solace and renewal. We realize that the people we are privileged to care for in our hospice house come from a vast array of spiritual backgrounds and it is our desire to be respectful of all.
I am reminded of the words spoken by President Harry S. Truman on February 3, 1951 at the dedication of the Chapel of the Four Chaplains which was housed at the Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia. The President said, “This interfaith shrine will stand through long generations to teach Americans that as we can die heroically as brothers so should we live together in mutual faith and goodwill.” Truman was referring to the way in which four chaplains of different faiths and denominations displayed great courage and unity in helping the panicked crew aboard the USS Dorchester after it was torpedoed by the Germans 150 miles off Greenland on February 3, 1943 during World War II. Survivors of the tragic sinking of the converted steamliner tell consistent stories of the way in which the four chaplains worked together to calm the crew, to distribute the life jackets, and to help men find the courage to jump into the frigid waters as their only hope of survival. They gave away their own life jackets at the expense of their own lives. Above the rising cries of desperation, the chaplains preached courage and hope. Prayers in Hebrew, Latin and English could be heard as one language of comfort and faith. It has been called a transformational moment for America, the first time that the Jewish, Protestant and Catholic denominations were recognized by the mainstream population as serving together with a common purpose.
In 1948 a commemorative stamp was issued remembering the four chaplains. The stamp is unusual in that before 2011 stamps were not usually issued in honor of anyone other than a US President unless the honoree had been deceased for at least ten years. In designing the stamp that bears the images of the four chaplains, it was decided to add the line, “interfaith in action” which was a common observation of the survivors who witnessed the four chaplains at work. It is a legacy that I believe serves us well now.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental value of our nation. Our forebears understood that religious freedom for one could only be realized if there is religious freedom for all. That is why they determined in the First Amendment t to the Constitution that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This encompasses far more than when and where we worship. It is about how we explore and come to understand responses to the most fundamental questions of life. Whatever our founding fathers believed about Christianity and the other religions they embraced, they clearly rejected the notion of an established church. Parker Palmer, the director of the Center for Courage and Renewal, observes, “America’s freedom of religion, and freedom from religion, offers every wisdom tradition an opportunity to address our soul-deep needs: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, secular humanism, agnosticism and atheism among others.” He is heartened that we can gain from the light that each religion and philosophy sheds on our common human condition.
On Four Chaplains Sunday, we celebrate spiritual leaders who lived together and died together in mutual faith and goodwill. As an act of mutual faith and goodwill you can join a community celebration this Sunday, February 5th at the Sauls-Bridges American Legion Post, 229 Lake Ella Drive at 2:00 PM. Interfaith in action. Respect for all. It’s foundational.
If you go:
Where: Saul’s Bridges American Legion Post, 229 Lake Ella Drive
When: Sunday, February 5, 2017 at 2:00 PM
What: Four Chaplains Ceremony with refreshments to follow