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Prayer machine installed

03 August 2012

THE first "Pray-o-mat" in the UK has been installed on the campus of the University of Manchester. Created by the German artist Oliver Sturm, the converted photo booth offers more than 300 pre-recorded prayers, in 65 different languages, delivered through a touch screen.

The machine was brought to Manchester by a team conducting a three-year research project on multifaith spaces (MFS) at the University. Its material includes the Lord's Prayer, Buddhist and Islamic benedictions, and Aboriginal devotional songs.

Dr Ralph Brand, senior lecturer in architectural studies at the University, said: "Although the Pray-o-mat is a bit tongue-in-cheek, there is a serious message to what we're doing. Successful multifaith spaces do not need to be flashy or expensive."

His colleague, Dr Chris Hewson, said, however, that it was "clear that a universal, off-the-shelf space can never adequately serve locally specific purposes". He suggested that the practical questions about MFS - design, architecture, and ornamentation - had received little attention.

Earlier this year, the research team published a study that estimated that there are more than 1500 MFSs in the UK (News, 13 April). It suggested that there was no fully formed "theology of MFS", and that many chaplains were, "through no fault of their own, often ill-prepared for the task of managing a multifaith space".

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