Altar building symbolises health partnership


Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia

The three parties sharing the new Clinical Education Centre at Sydney Adventist Hospital used a blessing ceremony last Monday (September 23) to emphasise the importance of building community.

We’re building something together, not throwing stones at each other.

The ceremony brought medical and nursing students from The University of Sydney’s Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical School and Avondale College of Higher Education’s Faculty of Nursing and Health together. The centre will enhance interdisciplinary learning by providing side-by-side clinical placements for the students, including those studying other allied health professions.

The new Clinical Education Centre at Sydney Adventist Hospital will open on November 1. [Photo courtesy: Brenton Stacey]

Dr Drene Somasundram, chaplain on Avondale’s Sydney campus, used the biblical act of altar building to symbolise the parties’ covenant. She encouraged those speaking and attending the ceremony to place small stones collected from the building site on large rocks placed decoratively in the foyer. “At this altar, we are confident of God’s provision of our past, our present and a blessed and hopeful future,” she said.

Symbols and symbolic actions are important, particularly in relationships, said president Professor Ray Roennfeldt. He acknowledged that sharing a building and services between the college, the university and the hospital will strain relationships but reminded those attending of their covenant. “We’re building something together, not throwing stones at each other.”

Faculty of Nursing and Health dean Dr Paul Race and Sydney campus chaplain Dr Drene Somasundram add stones to a symbolic altar, which formed the centrepiece of a blessing ceremony for the new Clinical Education Centre at Sydney Adventist Hospital.

Kimberley Halim, a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery student at the university, noted the common goal of those from each party: to provide the best care for patients. “To do so, we need to learn to work together. I’ll be the first to admit: there are gaps in my knowledge and skills I feel will be best filled by other members of the team. So, what better time than now, when we’re all still learning, to start building our professional relationships.”

Kimberley reflected the thoughts of Adventist HealthCare board and Avondale College Council chair Dr Barry Oliver, who is also president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific. “While it’s but a building, what will happen here will go a long way toward meeting not only the needs of students but of people, too,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for.”

Kristina Mazzaferri, group manager for spiritual care services at Adventist HealthCare, closed the ceremony by claiming the blessings of gratitude, union and love found in Ephesians 1:3-6. Avondale vocal ensemble The Promise, which opened the ceremony with director Aleta King’s “O Give Thanks,” responded with the meditative “Hear My Prayer.”

The Clinical Education Centre will open on November 1.