The RHUMC labyrinth was birthed out of a dream of congregation members who envisioned it as a nurturing, contemplative space of the campus and a resource for people to encounter God in a direct and profound way. This dream came to life during the summer of 2021, in the mist of the COVID pandemic, when our youth group was in search of a meaningful service project to complete over their summer break. All of the funds for the building of this labyrinth were donated and volunteers designed and built it. Our labyrinth is a modified nine circuit Chartres constructed out of brick and decomposed granite and is located next to the preschool playground and front of the sanctuary. Today, our labyrinth is a utilized by the entire community, and by all ages! Depending on the time of day you can experience the labyrinth surrounded by the joyful sounds of children at play, or the low but steady hum of cars on Crenshaw Boulevard.
We hope your experience in our labyrinth is one that is truly graced and transformative. May God bless your walk, meet you where you need to be met, and continue to unfold your path before you as you journey through your life.
A Brief Introduction to the Labyrinth
Labyrinths have been around for thousands of years. The circle and the path are symbols found across cultures and religious traditions. There are several different types of labyrinths. The 11-circuit, or Chartres, labyrinth was inlaid in the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France. It had been used during the Crusades, as had other labyrinths built in medieval cathedrals, as a means for Christians to make a symbolic pilgrimage to the Holy Land at a time when actual pilgrimages were too dangerous.
Today, labyrinths are used as a meditation and reflection tool. People have discerned vocations, released hurts and long-held grudges, established new orientations to their pain and grief, acquired insight into destructive relationship patterns, received direction, been comforted, experienced peace, and encountered God or the Divine in various and profound ways through walking the labyrinth.
What is a labyrinth? The labyrinth is not a maze. Mazes are meant to cause us to lose our way; labyrinths are meant to help us find it. There is one path that leads into the center and the same path leads out. The path is not linear (i.e., it does not move from the outer part of the circle directly toward the inner part of the circle). Rather, at times when we are the closest to the center on the path, we may actually be farthest from the center distance wise. This allows us to “let go” of keeping track of where we are on the path and to be able to go inward, focus on God, and achieve inner quiet. The path is a metaphor for the path through life that we each walk.
In this context, everything that happens while walking the labyrinth can be taken and reflected on as a metaphor for how we walk through life and the situations that may be currently confronting us.
The labyrinth provides another means for people to open themselves to the presence of God and to access inner stillness and quiet through walking meditation.
Walking a Labyrinth
A form of walking meditation is walking a labyrinth. Many churches and retreat centers have labyrinths available for those who wish to pray. There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth. It can be used for prayer, discernment, and healing. As you begin, it may be helpful to ask God what you need to hear, and then listen for an answer as you walk.
- On the way in: Pray for yourself. You may also pray the Lord’s Prayer or recite a familiar scripture. Release to God all that weighs you down or distracts you from the Divine path. The way in is a time of letting go.
- In the center: Sit, stand, or lie down. Rest and receive God’s loving presence. Reflect on your relationship with God. Give thanks and praise for all God is doing in your life. Take as much time as you need.
- On the way out: Return by the same path by which you came. This is a time of integrating whatever you received or learned, and returning to the world. Pray for others, that God’s will is accomplished in their lives. As you complete the labyrinth, walk back into ordinary life, knowing that God goes with you.
One could also practice the experience as a three-fold path:
- The Way In: Releasing – time of centering, a letting go, an emptying or shedding of worries, expectations, tensions, etc.
- In the Center: Receiving – time of meditation, prayer, just being with the Lord
- The Way Out: Returning – moving back out into the world, replenished, being directed, grounded, empowered
Reflect on where you are in your life, then:
- Simply quiet the mind and allow a sense of “gracious attention” to flow through as you walk
- Focus on a question or problem; bring the issue that has been in the background of your mind to the forefront
- Use repetition: say a mantra or a sacred word over and over as a point of focus
- Read or quietly recite Scripture to yourself
- Pray the Rosary, the Our Father, the Jesus Prayer, or in whatever way you feel led.
Principles of the Labyrinth
- There is no right or wrong way to walk it.
- Be open and attentive
- Experience your experience
- Allow whatever happens to happen
- You can get turned around
- There are only two places you can end up- in the middle or at the entrance… “The way to God is generous and error is part of the journey” – Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress
- Set your own pace (Listen to your body for how it wants to move)
- You may pass others on the path
- It’s a 2-way path; do what feels comfortable and what is nonverbally agreed upon with the other person
- Be aware of your expectations