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Clinical Center's Top-Floor Chapel Serves Many Faiths

Did you know that NIH has a chapel on campus? Located on the 14th floor of the Clinical Center, the spiritual ministry department (SMD) has provided spiritual support to thousands of patients, staff and visitors.

The SMD was established in 1953, when the Clinical Center opened, to provide spiritual support for patients participating in clinical trials and their families. It is led by chaplains from the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim faiths. The department provides 17 religious services weekly and 24-hour coverage for persons of all faiths. Chaplains are available for personal appointments with anyone at NIH, and they conduct or participate in memorial services for patients and staff.

Rotating altar at the chapel serves multiple faiths. This view is from the congregation, looking toward the altar; marble pulpits are at left and right.

The 14th floor chapel also provides a quiet place for prayer or meditation. A unique feature of the room is its rotating stage, which may be curtained as a plain backdrop or rotated to present altars for worshipers of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish faiths.

Muslim worshipers are provided prayer rugs, and those of other faiths also have appropriate worship aids made available.

Muslim prayer rugs are available for services at the chapel.

The SMD provides an opportunity for chaplains to gain experience in dealing with the sick. Established during the 1960s, the Clinical Pastoral Education program is staffed by chaplains who are interns in a 400-hour program accredited by the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education.

As a part of its documentation of the history of the Clinical Center, the Office of NIH History will collect documents, oral histories and artifacts related to the chapel and SMD. If you have any information about the spiritual ministry department, contact Brooke Fox at the Office of NIH History, 496-6610.

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