Congregational Commons Labyrinth

by Ramona Kime

Our big Commons project this summer is building the labyrinth. We’re getting excited as we finalize plans and raise money for materials. I’ve compiled some general information here about labyrinths and have included some information about our specific labyrinth. For those who haven’t walked a labyrinth, I’ve also included some guidelines on making your experience one that’s reflective and meaningful to you.

History: Labyrinths go back almost 5,000 years, long before Christianity. By the early Middle Ages, however, the church had converted labyrinths for Christian use and developed a specifically Christian tradition. The Chartres Labyrinth represents the culmination of the Christian design and was constructed during the twelfth century in the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France. While there are numerous labyrinth patterns, the Chartres pattern is the most commonly used. Ours will be a simplified replica of the Chartres labyrinth.

There has been a revival of interest in labyrinths since the 1990’s, spearheaded principally by the efforts of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. The World-Wide Labyrinth Locator currently lists over 5500 labyrinths worldwide, in 80 countries, with 90 of those labyrinths within a 100-mile radius of Charlotte. Most of those were built since the year 2000, and most are found at churches or spiritual retreat centers. Most are built out of pavers, bricks, crushed stone (like ours will be) or mown in the grass with stones to delineate the path. Most range from 35’-150’ in diameter (ours will measure 45’ in diameter).

Walking the Labyrinth: There is only one path; it leads to the center and back out again. Unlike mazes, labyrinths have no dead ends or false turns.

RELEASING: As you begin walking on the path, the act of shedding thoughts and distractions enables you to let go of the details of your life. Surrender to the path. This is a time to open your heart and quiet your mind.

RECEIVING: When you come to the center of the labyrinth, you may wish to pause and listen to the message of your own heart. Stay there as long as you like, sit or stand, meditate or pray. Allow yourself to receive guidance.

RETURNING: To leave the center, follow the same path back out. Walking back out of the labyrinth represents a return from centered reality to the world of ordinary time. You become more empowered to find and do the work you feel your soul calling for.

A few guidelines: You may begin to walk even while others are in the labyrinth. Perhaps you will encounter people who are moving in the opposite direction from you. On the journey, you may step aside to let others pass; you may move quickly or slowly, passing others or being passed. Your experience of walking the labyrinth will be unlike anyone else’s experience. Each walk is unique.

All are invited to walk our Commons Labyrinth. May you find a quiet experience of reflection.