Can a cancer program-sponsored spiritual event meet with acceptance from patients and other attendees

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Article, Peer-reviewed

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BACKGROUND: While many cancer patients derive strength from spiritual or religious faith, concern often remains regarding how different patient subgroups and other community members might react to faith-based services when sponsored by a secular health care organization. METHODS: "A Sacred Gathering for Those Touched by Cancer" was presented in 2 Catholic and 2 Protestant churches. The service included key themes (surrendering fear, peace, hope, community support, and God's love) reinforced by Scripture, music, ritual, and prayer. Patients, clergy, and staff participated. Questionnaires evaluating attendee characteristics, emotional response to the service, and satisfaction with service components were distributed. RESULTS: Attendees (women: 80%; Catholic: 71%; half older than 50 years) returned 450 questionnaires. Most found the service very (83%) or somewhat (14%) helpful. Multivariate regression of perceptions indicated (1) the opinion that the service was helpful was associated with the perception that the service made the respondent feel hopeful (P < .0001), that respondents found inspirational messages important (P = .058), and that the respondent was a current patient (P = .018) and (2) an angry response reported by respondents was associated with current patient status (P = .0044). Men tended to feel less loved by God (P = .012) and people (P = .034) and less hopeful (P = .057) than women did. Men liked music less (P = .048), liked Scripture and prayers concerning community less (P = .040), and found prayer (P = .0035) less important. However, men felt the gatherings were as helpful as women did. Past patients felt less sadness than did others (P = .0084). Increased perceived helpfulness of the service was associated in a multivariate analysis with current patient status, feeling hopeful as a result of the service, increased appreciation of the service's inspirational message, and the perception that the service was not too long. CONCLUSIONS: While almost all attendees found the service somewhat or very helpful, distinct preferences and reactions to the service were noted for gender, patient status, and religious affiliation. This evaluation will help tailor future events to better meet the spiritual needs of cancer patients and their loved ones.

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