Bishop Anderson House: Crossroads of Faith and Science

August 03, 2012

Tucked deep within Rush University Medical Center on the West Side of Chicago is Bishop Anderson House, a program with a tiny staff and a huge mission:to advance healing by ministering to the sick and to those who care for them.

Bishop Anderson House serves as a crossroads of faith and science by teaching ethics in a medical school; collaborating with psychologists, chaplains, epidemiologists and physicians in the integration of spirituality and medicine; and by contributing to the field of research in this area.

From visiting the sick to training lay chaplains to distributing teddy bears to pediatric wards, Bishop Anderson House annually serves more than 10,000 people from every religious tradition.

“The ministry that got me involved was in 1988 when our church collected teddy bears to distribute to sick children,” said Ann Ryba, who is program coordinator at Bishop Anderson House. “I was the person to deliver them, and I was captivated.” Ryba went on to become a member and then president of the board of trustees.

The beginnings of Bishop Anderson House dates back to 1948 when the Rev. Richard Young envisioned a new ministry in the Episcopal Church that would bring together science and religion in the healing of body and soul. One source of his inspiration was the work of Bishop Charles Palmerston Anderson, 4th Bishop of Chicago, who had a vision of the Church as a transformer of society. Under Young’s leadership, Bishop Anderson House combined traditional chaplaincy duties with an experiment in religious “settling” in the new West Side Medical District, now known as the Illinois Medical District. It is one of the largest urban medical districts in the world.

The experiment was successful, and the program grew. In the 1970s Bishop Anderson House developed a relationship with Rush University that led to the establishment of the Department of Religion, Health and Human Values in the College of Health Sciences at the university. The late 1980s saw the implementation of the Lay Chaplain Training Program, which has more than 300 graduates serving as volunteer pastoral caregivers in hospitals, nursing homes and parishes throughout the northern third of Illinois.

The current executive director, the Rev. James Risk, is active in local and national chaplaincy affairs. He is editor of Chaplair, the newsletter of the Association of Episcopal Health Care Chaplains. He also serves as a board certified chaplain at Rush University Medical Center and as a unit chaplain in the Johnson R. Bowman Center for Geriatric Medicine.

Bishop Anderson House is a member agency of Episcopal Charities and Community Services.