Pastor Carol Reed tells the story of Calvin’s Labyrinth.
By Carol Reed
The Labyrinth at Calvin Presbyterian Church was built through the efforts of many devoted members of the church and friends from our neighboring communities. Though the Labyrinth is new to Calvin and this community, it is an ancient, sacred symbol found in many religious traditions. Various styles of labyrinth patterns can be found in cultures from all over the world, dating back 5,000 years.
This means of devotion has been used since the first days of Christianity. Early Christians took a vow to visit the Holy City at some point in their lives, but during the Middle Ages the Crusades made travel to Jerusalem unsafe. Instead, Christians built labyrinths in the floors of the cathedral entrances. By walking the path of a labyrinth, Christians found a safe means to fulfill their sacred pilgrimage vows. The center of the labyrinth symbolized Jerusalem for these early Christians, and walking the labyrinth became an important spiritual practice.
There are a number of avid gardeners at Calvin some of whom had hoped for some time to have a labyrinth. When I arrived at the church, I saw a big expansive lawn of grass and thought what a great place it would be to have a labyrinth! I put out a call for people in the church who were interested in doing more with the gardens and also with an interest in labyrinths, or at least a curiosity. We had a number of different “field trips” exploring labyrinths around the metro area – at churches and religious institutions, as well as in parks and public places. In time we decided there was sufficient interest in the project and got the Session’s approval to go ahead. It was a process of working with some very talented gardeners, artists, and a landscape designer in the church to look at options and then come up with a design, size, precise location on the church grounds, and choice of materials for our labyrinth.
The bricks for our labyrinth were donated as was the use of the equipment to cut the sod. The landscape designer mapped out our design, a modified five-circuit Chartres Cathedral style labyrinth on the front lawn, centered in front of the sanctuary, and just off the front parking lot where it would be accessible to the larger community. Church members of all ages came out on a very hot weekend in August in 2008 to help dig and lay bricks. It proved to be a community building project and even those who were skeptical about what this labyrinth thing was, came out to see what was happening. On May Day in 2009, we had a dedication of the labyrinth and gardens and invited the community to join us on what turned out to be cool but very festive celebration.
In time we added memorial prayer gardens that follow the contours of the labyrinth. We also added a pergola and bench that provides a shady spot to sit and pray. We find many people in our neighborhood make use of the labyrinth, in fact I suspect it is used more by the community than the congregation. There have been wonderful stories I have heard of people finding it a healing place in a time of crisis or need, and those are only the stories we have heard! We are pleased to be hosting a World Labyrinth Day event, in part to continue to invite more of the community to discover our labyrinth and use it on their journey of faith.