A handmade kneeling bench, a Bible donated by area businesses and stained glass donated by the Ellis family are located inside the chapel at Texas County Memorial Hospital. Credit: HOUSTON HERALD FILE PHOTO

A new chapel space for patients, visitors and employees was recently dedicated at Texas County Memorial Hospital.

Members of the Volunteer Chaplains Association said they were eager to bring a chapel back into the hospital after it was removed for renovation and construction in 2000. In 2003, with the formation of the chaplain group, Wes Murray, chief executive officer, designated space for a “quiet room” near the emergency department.

With the new construction completed in 2013, the emergency department has a larger room inside the department that is available for counseling when needed. 

“Credit for this new chapel space goes to the Volunteer Chaplain’s Association,” Murray said. “They have been consistent over the past few years in requesting a designated chapel space.”

The area was originally a consultation room but according to Murray was not being utilized to its fullest extent. With the new construction and the availability of space, Murray said TCMH had a great opportunity to bring a chapel back into the hospital.

The Volunteer Chaplain’s Association maintains a schedule, regularly providing clergy for hospital patients and family members when needed.

“They care a lot about meeting the spiritual needs of everyone that comes through our doors, and they are very encouraged to have a chapel back inside the hospital,” Murray said.

The chapel was designed and built by the TCMH maintenance department. They lined the rooms with wood panels. Stained glass is lit and placed in the panels on the walls.  Furniture that was handcrafted for the original hospital chapel has been placed in the new space.

One large stained glass piece — a dove — was part of the original chapel. The other stained glass pieces — one large, two small in memory of Elmer and Jean Ellis — came from the Free Will Baptist Church in Cabool. 

Murray explained that the Ellis stained glass pieces were purchased with funds donated by Monkey Grip, the business that employed Elmer Ellis, to the Ellis family church. 

“The church gave the stained glass panels back to the Ellis family after they removed the panels during a remodeling phase,” Murray said.

The four Ellis daughters donated the stained glass panels to the hospital to be utilized in the new chapel space.

Two benches, a kneeling bench, a cross and candle holders made by Loy Leek, a Houston resident and former employee in the hospital’s maintenance department, made the chapel items in the early 1980s. Leek also made a pulpit that was too large for the chapel space, but can be used elsewhere in the hospital.

According to Murray, the dove stained glass piece, the benches and other handmade items were placed in storage when the chapel was closed for the construction done at TCMH in 2000. The maintenance department refinished the furniture and placed it in the new space.

A large Bible was also in storage with the chapel furniture, and it has been placed on the kneeling bench in the chapel.              

“Nobody seems to know the history of the Bible, but it appears to have been presented to the hospital by several businesses,” Murray said.

There is no date in the Bible, but the businesses listed inside the Bible are Progressive Federal Bank; Mr. Terry’s; Richards Brothers; Reese Oil; Houston Mill Inc., and Scheets Hardware.

“The quiet room served its purpose and was very good for the hospital for many years,” Murray said. “But it’s good to bring a chapel, a designated space open to the public, back to this hospital.”

The TCMH Healthcare Foundation, the charitable arm of the hospital, is utilizing the new space for memorial and other donation recognition with brass naming plates on the wooden panels.

Jay Gentry, Healthcare Foundation director, explained that with a minimum $500 donation, a donor may designate a plate in the chapel space. For additional information about donor recognition inside the TCMH chapel, contact Gentry at jgentry@tcmh.org or 417-967-1377.

The chapel is located on the second floor of the medical surgical floor of the hospital, just off the main waiting room and North stairwell and elevator.  It is open to the public.

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