Big turnout as hospital chapel turns 50


Amail Habib, Ailsa Stewart, Hamish McDouall and Justin Duckworth at the unveiling of the anniversary plaque.

4 November 2020


It was standing room only on Sunday as the 50th anniversary of Whanganui Hospital’s chapel was celebrated in style.


Officially dedicated on 13 June 1970, the ecumenical chapel has been “a place of peace for people of all faiths” for half a century and it was packed on Sunday afternoon, with dignitaries, current and former chaplains, hospital staff and patients marking the occasion.


Whanganui is one of the few provincial hospitals with a stand-alone chapel – the idea arising at the first Nurses Reunion in Whanganui in 1958 when a Mrs Bennett gave 25 pounds to start a chapel fund.


It was built by W M Angus Ltd and the architects were Haughton and Mair. The chapel was extended and re-dedicated in 1987 thanks to a fundraising effort by the Whanganui community which produced $96,000.


The treasurer for that community appeal was Gerald McDouall OBE whose son, mayor Hamish McDouall, was present on Sunday to unveil the anniversary plaque.


It would not be a proper birthday without a cake.

Also present were the Right Reverend Justin Duckworth, Bishop of Wellington, who delivered an entertaining sermon, and Chris Bryan, chair of the Inter-Church Council for Hospital Chaplaincy Boards.


The service started with a welcome from kaumatua John Maihi and an address by hospital chaplain Amail Habib. Other speakers included Ailsa Stewart, chair of the Whanganui Chaplaincy Committee, who provided an historical overview of the chapel, and Whanganui District Health Board chief executive Russell Simpson.


Choral support was provided by the Whanganui Collegiate choir, students from the school being regular supporters of the chapel’s Sunday services.


Former chaplains attending including Lincoln Paul, the first ecumenical chaplain in 1979; Rosemary Anderson; Graham Juden; and Dave Scoullar, while an embroidered bookmark created 50 years ago by then nurse Esther Voss is still in service in the chapel Bible.


Current ecumenical chaplain Amail Habib said the chapel was non-denominational and described it as “a place for all people where they can spend some time with God”. He is supported at the hospital by Roman Catholic chaplain in Norma O’Connor. 


A service on Sunday marked 50 years of Whanganui’s hospital chapel.