BEING WELL // Thursday, Sept 28  3:00-4:45pm (Rm 201)

Prayer and Art as Lived Experience: Images from British and Canadian Hospitals
Sheryl Reimer-Kirkham, Sonya Sharma, Melania Calestani, & Brenda Smith

Recently, there has been a burgeoning of research on the arts in healthcare contexts and how this contributes to patient and staff wellbeing (e.g., Broderick 2011; Fleischer and Grehan 2016; Wilson et al. 2016). The effects of participating in the arts such as dance, arts and crafts or other aspects such as listening to music or engaging with visual art are being investigated. In this presentation, we draw on the findings of a current study in British and Canadian hospitals that examines the expression of prayer in healthcare settings. From our fieldwork, we have observed that the arts, including fine (e.g., paintings, murals, sculpture) and performance art (e.g., dance forms, singing, music) as well as iconography and religious kitsch, are an important feature of the spaces that we are studying. Findings reveal that these various forms of art can contribute to a sense of spirituality and wellbeing, and in other situations can serve as an affront to prayer. We interrogate how the arts generate connections amongst participants and, depending on the time and place, highlight inequalities between healthcare settings. Conceptualizations of the arts and how they intertwine with prayer will be explored along with how social, cultural, spiritual and religious norms, identities and practices are reinforced and challenged. Our discussion will be illustrated with photographic images from the hospitals.


Sheryl Reimer-Kirkham, RN PhD, is Professor of Nursing at Trinity Western University, Canada. Her research is in the area of plurality and equity in healthcare, focusing on the intersections of religion, spirituality, race, class, and gender. She has published extensively on critical perspectives such as postcolonial theory, and is co-editor of Religion, Religious Ethics, and Nursing (Springer 2012). She is co-Director of Trinity Western University’s Centre for Equity and Global Engagement, and a founding member of the Religion in Canada Institute.

Sonya Sharma, PhD, is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Kingston University London, UK. Her research has focused on women’s experiences of church life and sexuality, religion and spirituality in healthcare and religion among young people and families. She is co-editor of Women and Religion in the West: Challenging Secularization (Ashgate 2008), co-author of Christian and the University Experience: Understanding Student Faith (Bloomsbury 2013) and co-editor of Religion, Equalities and Inequalities (Routledge 2016).

Melania Calestani, PhD, is an anthropologist with post-doctoral experience in health services research and social sciences. She is a Research Associate at Kingston University London for the project 'Prayer as Transgression?'. Her main interests include issues related to well-being, faith and morality. She has carried out research on cultural and social constructions of well-being and health, with a particular focus on spirituality and religion. In particular, by exploring the interplays between culture, health, spirituality and religion, she has considered the link between health, ethics and morality.

Brenda Smith, RN BSN, is a graduate student at Trinity Western University and Research Coordinator for the “Prayer as Transgression?” project. She is a nurse entrepreneur with expertise in occupational and mental health services, and is studying nurse entrepreneurship as the focus of her Master’s thesis.