A-mazing New Labyrinth at St. Paul’s in Smithfield, NC


Our letter of transfer arrived this past week, the one that clears the way for us to become members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Smithfield, North Carolina. The letter came the same week a labyrinth was being installed on the church grounds and of course, I took it as a good sign.

We had a labyrinth ministry at our former parish, Trinity Episcopal Church in Manassas, Virginia, where I worshipped for 33 years. A succession of hearts and hands keep that ministry going – the ones I knew were Pamela, Dexter, Christina, Jane. They would pull the bin that contained the bulky canvas mat out of its storage space, roll it out on the floor of the parish hall, set up music, luminaires, socks if you needed them, a flyer with directions for newcomers, and stones or pieces of cloth to carry with you. At the center there might be a small stand with a bowl to place stones, personal notes or anything you wanted to let go of. After a Friday night or Saturday walk, they would re-roll the canvas and neatly tuck everything away in the bin – including freshly washed socks. The portable bin was available for loan-out.
Trinity’s labyrinth was unfurled in the sanctuary during a time when pews were removed for floor repairs and restoration.

One spring Christina set up a garden labyrinth outside. Jane has several times drawn chalk labyrinths on the surface of the church parking lot, for solstice walks.
Summer Solstice 1
In nearby Bristow, Virginia, there’s a labyrinth at the Benedictine Monastery.

There’s also a stone labyrinth at Shrine Mont, the Episcopal retreat center at Orkney Springs, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Mountains.
shrine mont labyrinth
There’s a special pilgrimage and labyrinth walk planned there in October 2015.

So it was with joy that I learned a labyrinth was being installed at St. Paul’s. Thanks to The Rev. Jim Melnyk’s photography and the wonder of Facebook, I could tune in daily for the pictures in progress and even videos of the local landscaper, Matthew Creech, using a plumb line to measure the circuitous layout, dig out the dirt space with a backhoe loader, and his crew, laying down the stone pavers.

labyrinth st pauls
Photo of the completed labyrinth at St. Paul’s by The Rev. Jim Melnyk

He posted that it was designed by The Labyrinth Company in Connecticut in a seven-circuit design, like the fourteen-circuit labyrinth at Chartres.

I also learned that memorial funds, given in memory of Beverly Jordan, the wife of parishioner, Dr. Lyndon Jordan, had made the labyrinth possible. I didn’t have a chance to know her – she passed away a few months before Curtis and I moved to the area. But this lasting gift especially touched me, as I was widowed in December 1998.

After my first husband, Martin, died, I discovered the labyrinth-like Old Rose Garden, part of the historic Ben Lomond Historic Site in Manassas, Virginia. While my daughter had dance lessons at the community center across the street, I would walk the garden’s paths. When I started in winter, everything was brown and dormant. By spring, I was walking in bare feet on the green grass paths, and all about me the roses were fragrant and beautiful. I learned from that experience how healing such walks can be.
rose garden ben lomond
Photo from Prince William County’s website for the Ben Lomond Historic Site

What a beautiful living tribute to Beverly Jordan, to provide this sacred space where anyone in the community or visiting can lay down their burdens and concerns, and spend quiet time walking with God.
I walked it for the first time on Sunday, and I hope to walk it again today. It was breathtaking to stand at the center and get the wide-angle feeling of pointing true north, centered, with everything green and growing around me. I truly feel at home in this parish now, because we are part of something new. Thank you, people of St. Paul’s, for welcoming us.

The labyrinth at St. Paul’s is open to anyone who wants to walk it. There are brochures in the plastic tube near the entrance. The labyrinth will be dedicated in the fall.

Looking for a labyrinth in your area? Check the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator. If there is a labyrinth that you know of that isn’t in the database, please add it.

Link to an article in the Smithfield Herald — The Rev. Jim Melnyk explains the difference between a maze and a labyrinth. http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/community/smithfield-herald/article27902770.html

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