SOUTH BEND, Ind. – In exploring ways to nurture spiritual growth, the Spiritual Life Center team of Grace United Methodist Church in South Bend built a permanent outdoor labyrinth.
Team members say the labyrinth represents a journey to a spiritual connection with God and then back out again into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools.
With the encouragement of Senior Pastor David Schrader, team members began by visiting and walking several labyrinths in the greater South Bend area. Encouraged by what they found, a task force was formed and given the assignment to design and develop the project.
The task force first prayerfully considered how this project could meet the spiritual needs of the community and congregation. After much reading and research, the group met with a knowledgeable consultant. Several concerns were considered: design, size, materials, maintenance, location, cost, construction and climate constraints.
It soon became clear that preparing the site and laying out a complex design with paving bricks were not only labor-intensive, but required special skills. The church contracted Duane Yoder, an Amish landscaper familiar with labyrinths and skilled in working with hardscapes, to help design and build both the labyrinth and a memorial walkway leading to it.
The labyrinth was constructed of paving stones in three earth tones. The seven-circuit classic design is 32-feet in diameter and features an enlarged center with a cross patterned in the pavers. The labyrinth entrance faces the large stained glass sanctuary window depicting Christ as the Good Shepherd.
Funding to build the labyrinth came from undesignated memorial funds and the sale of memorial bricks. Two sizes (8 by 8 inches and 4 by 8 inches) of engraved bricks were available and formed the pattern of the memorial walkway leading to the labyrinth.
To date, 162 bricks have been engraved and installed. This path has become a permanent memorial to those named and honored by grateful loved ones. In the future, the task force plans to extend the walkway and install a sign and bench.
The realization of that first vision to build a labyrinth as a sacred space open to the church, the community and all who pass by was celebrated at its dedication Nov. 1, 2009. Task force members say the presence of the labyrinth calls visitors to the labyrinth to nurture their spirituality and grow in wholeness.
Walking the labyrinth was found to be simple yet powerful. Many find walking to the center can be an experience of opening up to God, a time of release and calming. Retracing the path can bring new insight, healing and energy.
The ancient practice of walking the labyrinth becomes a profound and surprising way to experience God today. The labyrinth of Grace Church is always open and all are welcome to walk it.
For further information or to schedule a program on the labyrinth, contact Ann Hofsommer by e-mail at GraceSpiritLife@aol.com or call the Grace Church office at 574-288-4789.