Detroit -- While I was here in the Motor City last week attending the annual conference of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, we were regaled by various business and professional people about how Detroit is making a rebound from its doldrums.
For instance, we visited the new downtown headquarters of Quicken Loans, which has moved about 1,700 employees from the suburbs to a downtown building. And Quicken plans to move more people into downtown until it has nearly 4,000 employees here.
As we toured the facility, I came around a corner and noticed a "Prayer Room" sign on a curtained room, pictured here. Our guide told us that it's regularly used by Muslims who happen to be at work when one of their five daily required prayer times occurs. But it's also available to people of other faiths and is open all day every day. (The Detroit area has a large Muslim population.)
This is one more good example of how thoughtful business leaders make accommodations to meet the religious needs of employees. And it's happening in various places around the country as the religious landscape of America changes.
I asked a Quicken p.r. person for a fuller explanation of the company's decision to create some prayer space in the work area and she told me that Quicken "decided to establish a prayer room because about 10 team members requested it in move meetings we held before the company relocated to Detroit."
There was prayer space available at Quicken's former facility in suburban Livonia, "but it was not a designated space," she said. This room, which is approximately 10-feet by 10-feet, is dedicated to prayer and meditation use and can accommodate six to eight people at a time, though often it's used just by one employee at a time. About 10 to 12 people use the room on a daily basis. Although I was not able to go into the room, it was described as intimate with seating. Inside, signs ask visitors to remove their shoes and put them in a shoe rack. As I indicated, there are curtains for privacy. And there's a white board on which to leave prayers. Soft carpet allows people to lie down or kneel comfortably. The room can be reserved for a specific time through the same scheduler employees use to reserve any conference room.
Good employers find ways to meet the religious needs of their workers without making a big deal out of it or making employees uncomfortable by calling attention to them. And people of faith who feel welcome in the work place must, in turn, not violate that welcome by pushing their faith on others.
The folks at Quicken seem to have figured all that out.
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NO, POPES AREN'T INFALLIBLE WHEN THEY TWEET
Pope Benedict XVI tweeted the other day to announce the launch of a new Vatican news site. Obviously you're not going to get balanced or critical news and analysis there but on the whole it looks like a useful site for anyone wanting to keep up on Vatican thinking and actions. So have a look.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.