Something for the Soul: Local labyrinths

May 2021 Posted in Community, Other, People

By Melissa Wagoner

Celebration encourages community to take long way ‘round

Labyrinth at the Shalom Prayer Center - courtesy of Sister Dorothy Jean Beyer

Labyrinth at the Shalom Prayer Center – courtesy of Sister Dorothy Jean Beyer

Each year on the first Saturday in May, people across the globe take part in a form of moving meditation known as “walk as one at 1,” in honor of world peace. Utilizing labyrinths – those meandering single-pathed designs constructed to promote personal, spiritual and psychological transformation – World Labyrinth Day unites people in parks, churches, schools, prisons, and even backyards, in a celebration of the labyrinth experience. 

“We will be using this time for praying and walking for peace, using the 20-minute Silent Peace Walk,” Sr. Dorothy Jean Beyer said. She is a member of the community of Benedictine Sisters in Mount Angel, which hosts two labyrinths (an indoor and an outdoor) on site. 

The event taking place May 1 at 1 p.m. at the west end of the Shalom Prayer Center. 

Completed and blessed in 2012 at the behest of Beyer, who had experienced the benefit of walking a labyrinth while on retreat, the Shalom Center’s outdoor labyrinth is constructed of mown grass divided by stone. 

“[T]he labyrinth we own is a design used by Episcopalian priest Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress who used the pattern of the eleven-circuit Medieval Labyrinth from Chartres Cathedral in France,” Beyer said of the pattern. Contrary to popular belief, it is decidedly not a maze. 

“People use the term labyrinth to refer to a maze – something intended to make you lost,” Raggs Ragan, the Interim Vicar at Saint Edward’s Episcopal Church in Silverton, the home of another Chartres-inspired labyrinth, confirmed. “But the labyrinth Christians use is a single path that gets you in and out again. You cannot get lost. The thing itself actually guides you to the center and then out.”

That thoughtful guidance is the very essence of a labyrinth, which some experts believe may actually enhance the cognitive brain activity of participants. And it’s not just used by Christians.

“They really go across spiritual and non-spiritual divides,” Ragan noted. “It’s very open.”

But one thing all labyrinths – new and old, secular and non-secular – have in common is the one path design.

“That alone, the ability to say, when the world dissolves into chaos, I will let myself go and it will keep me safe… I don’t know of a time when we’re more in need of something like that,” Ragan posited. 

Similar in shape but vastly different in overall construction, the labyrinth at St. Edward’s features a concrete path with river rock divisions that leads the traveler toward a center filled with several large central stones.

“I’m still really pleased with them,” Contractor Tim Beck, who along with Landscape Architect, Laura Antonson constructed the labyrinth in 2014, said. 

“For me it’s fun when I’m up there and I see random people using it.”

“We very much hope that word will spread so people will know it’s here,” Ragan said, explaining that the labyrinth was built not only for use solely by the St. Edward’s parish, but for the community at large. “In particular I’m hoping to connect with the hospital. I want them to know that anyone over there – families especially – can have this as a resource. It’s a three-minute walk.”

More than anything, both Beyer and Ragan hope that more people will experience a local labyrinth no matter what the reason – for exercise or something more.

“The labyrinth is a time of prayer, of walking meditation, of discernment for future directions in one’s life,” Beyer said. “Walking the labyrinth takes patience and a sense
of wonder.”

Labyrinth at St. Edward’s Episcopal Church

Built largely of locally sourced river rock, this labyrinth is in the Chartres Design and is open to the community as a place for meditation or prayer.

211 W. Center St., Silverton

Labyrinth at the Shalom Prayer Center

The Shalom Prayer Center has both an outside (lawn and stone) labyrinth, welcoming drop-in users and an inside (cloth) labyrinth, which requires an appointment. 

840 S. Main St., Mt. Angel. 503-845-6773

All faiths are welcome at all three labyrinths.

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