Labyrinth Brings Ancient Ritual to Union Church
By Catherine Driscoll, member of the Union Church of Lake Bluff
The Union Church of Lake Bluff and its congregation have just completed building a labyrinth behind the church and extend an invitation to all community members to experience this 2,000-year-old practice of spiritual discovery. The church is located at 525 E. Prospect Avenue.
Walking a labyrinth is an ancient spiritual practice that allows one to contemplate life and find clarity and focus. With one path to follow to the center and back, walking a labyrinth is a journey to the center of one’s soul.
Pictures of labyrinths have been found on pottery dating back to 18,000 B.C., and actual labyrinths have been discovered in Finland, China, Egypt and across Europe in sites as old as 3,200 B.C.
“If Jesus’ ministry had been videotaped,” explained Union Church Pastor Mark Hindman, “more than anything we would see Jesus and his followers walking by the seas, through deserts, up and down mountains, to the most rural towns, and toward Jerusalem. Of this we are certain: Jesus slept. Jesus ate. Jesus drank. And Jesus walked.”
During the Middle Ages, Christians were inspired to go on pilgrimages to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. But conflicts in the Middle East made that impossible for many. “That’s when Christians adopted and adapted the labyrinth as a symbolic way of marking the pilgrimage of faith,” Hindman said.
In 1,200 A.D., a beautiful labyrinth was built in the cathedral at Chartre in France, and soon thereafter, labyrinths became very popular additions to cathedrals all over Europe. But the success of these labyrinths and the powerful stories of walkers connecting with God’s presence resulted in their undoing. The church hierarchy, built on the notion that only priests could have a direct relationship with God, began destroying them or hiding them under seating and other structures.
Parishioners painted the bricks in bright colors and patterns
It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that labyrinths came back in favor. Today, there are labyrinths in 42 states, including a notable one in Naperville and even one at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital.
So why did the Union Church of Lake Bluff decide to build a labyrinth? Said Tracy Hindman, the youth minister and Mark’s wife, “We decided to build our own labyrinth as a way to bring a different kind of sacred space to the church family and the community.”
Building the labyrinth was an all-congregational affair. Church member John Colquhoun from Signature Services helped envision the space, cleared it, and suggested materials to use for digging and creating the labyrinth that would be appropriate for all ages. The bricks were donated b
y church member John Hirsch, Vice President of Krugel Cobbles, and were painted by church members, young and old.
The congregation chose to place the labyrinth in a memorial garden for a beloved church member, Elizabeth Peters, and members worked together to clear and prepare the site. Mark Hindman, volunteers, and a team of preschoolers helped to move more than 700 bricks to the site.
“It was the most fun that I’ve had in quite a while, laughing with the children and watching them throw themselves completely into the job,” he said.
The church hired a professional, Neal Harris from relax4life, to design the 27-foot diameter labyrinth.
So what should you expect to experience when you walk a labyrinth? Beams of sunshine? Choirs of angels singing? Divine intervention? Mark Hindman said, “Sometimes when we practice sacred rituals (baptism, prayer, communion), they are ordinary, but dear to us nevertheless. In a similar way, sometimes when we walk the labyrinth, it is mostly just a nice walk. Our life isn’t changed in an instant. Personally, I find room to breathe, a moment to reflect, a chance to put down what I’m carrying around and walk without that burden. And all of that is good.”
The Union Church invites all people to come and walk its labyrinth – to breathe, to reflect, to relax and to find a moment of pure peace. The Union Church labyrinth is located behind the church on the south side of the parking lot in a nice, quiet space.
Click here to watch the video of the construction of the Labyrinth:http://youtu.be/lm6piOYZRmM
Flyer including history of labyrinths and suggestions for walking the labyrinth. lab invite