Our church has a labyrinth painted on a small parking lot where anyone from the congregation and the neighborhood is welcome to come and walk it whenever they like. A labyrinth looks like a maze but doesn’t have any places where the path is blocked. It winds around in a pattern that is unpredictable and ever-changing. For centuries, people have used labyrinths as a spiritual discipline where one can be on a journey to the center of the design, stop and pray and ponder, and then walk out from the labyrinth back to the exit with new insights or even a sense of having made a trek.
I love to share the labyrinth with the children in my church. In fact, they are often the ones who are most willing and interested to try it out. Children enter labyrinths with joy and energy. They run, skip, walk fast, and laugh, a lot! The labyrinth is a wonderful surprise at every turn to see where it is going to head next and how it will finally turn and twist the participant to the center.
In the center of our outdoor labyrinth, we have several “petals,” like a flower. It is designed after the famed labyrinth at the Chartres Cathedral in France. Each of the petals can offer a new view to the surroundings and a place to offer different prayers. Sometimes I ask the children what they will be thinking about on their journey and what they will ponder or pray on in the center when they arrive. Other times I prepare them for the labyrinth journey before they enter by reading a Bible story. We have walked the labyrinth at Advent, during Lent, in the spring, with candles in the dark, even together with families on a day dedicated to community outreach.
A labyrinth is easy to create on any flat surface. The internet is a wonderful source of ideas for making labyrinths with rocks, ropes, chalk, candles, plants, paving stones, and even sand. Last year during our online Sunday School we challenged the kids to create a labyrinth inside their homes. Some used blankets, pillows, books, and stuffed animals. Others used a simple pattern to create a paper labyrinth they could follow with their finger or a crayon. The beauty of the labyrinth is how our imaginations can help us use it to take a journey and find ourselves in a new place, both literally and spiritually, at the end.