Written by Janet English

13. The “Silent Church”

Understanding the Whole Person

Chapter 13

You’re looking across one of the busiest areas in Helsinki: to your left is Kamppi, the main bus terminal and on the other side of the yellow building is the main Helsinki Central Station.  Thousands of people walk through this square every day. What is the odd shaped building?


I heard that this building is here to provide social services to anyone who needs it – right here in the middle of the busiest part of town, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, at no cost.  And no appointment is needed.

Four or five people are standing around the entrance working as social workers but none of them look like they came from the same neighborhood – one is conservatively dressed, one is punkish, one is young and well-kept, and one is middle aged family-style. I guess I can talk to the one that makes me feel most comfortable.  For some reason I ask the edgy, middle-aged man if I can enter the Silent Church and he says, “Sure.  Go ahead.”

The church is exquisite and it is quiet. It is fabulous. Finns realize that most if not all people need help at some point in their lives.  This includes not only physical and financial help but psychological and spiritual help, as well.

After fifteen minutes I walk out, approach the man “with an edge” and ask him about the social services provided here. He says they provide social workers and/or church workers to talk with anyone who needs it.  Sometimes people need short conversations and others need longer conversations. The interactions (and assistance) are always free, one never needs an appointment, and the person in need may remain anonymous.  The conversations are as long as the person needs them to be. Thank you for setting a new standard for excellence in mental health care, Finland. This building is affectionately called the “Silent Church,” or, Kampin Kaapeli, and in 2010 it won the International Architectural Award.