After years of planning, the McKee Medical Center Chapel was dedicated on April 15. Many of the hospital staff took the opportunity to stop by and see the finished product. Hospital Chaplin Bruce Rippe said he was very actively involved with the process of designing this space. He wanted a place that was spiritual, where people could meditate without the space having an overly religious tone. “What better way to do that than bring in the natural world,” he said.
The aspen grove wall is a great part of the effect that Rippe wished to achieve. These unique windows were created by Ed Lucia of Lucia’s Leatherwood glass. The two panels of etched glass are mounted with a space between, giving a three dimensional effect to the wall. The aspen look so life like that most of the visitors to the chapel wanted to touch the window wall to see if they can feel the texture of the tree bark.
The other centerpiece of the chapel is the wood sculpture “Prayer.” By J. Christopher White, whose trade name “Parables in Wood,” seems like an apt description of this half smoke-half dove creation. The sculpture is centered on the wall between the two stained glass windows at the front of chapel. The flowing upper end of the piece represents a prayer being sent to heaven, the dove represents the answer to the prayer.
For the people of McKee there is even more symbolism. The sculpture is unusual in that it is carved from the wood of a cottonwood tree. White had never worked in cottonwood before and was surprised at the beauty of this lowly wood. The wood came from an old cottonwood tree that was removed to make room for the new emergency room expansion. The tree was a favorite among the staff. Visitors and staff often took there summer lunch in the shade of the old tree. A large section of the tree trunk was saved and was the source of the wood for the sculpture. Rippe said there was enough remaining wood that a bench is planned. Trauma Coordinator, Karen Lindhorst, while admiring the sculpture for the first time, said, “I am glad they were able to preserve it so that it stays a part of the McKee legacy.”
As is his custom, White will create a poem to accompany the sculpture.
It would appear that Rippe has achieved his coal in this extraordinary space. He certainly seemed pleased the day of the dedication.
He was also happy that the renovation includes a new location for the Chaplin’s office; it now will adjoin the chapel.