URC :: Spirituality

broadening and deepening prayer
United Reformed Church Spirituality articles:

The labyrinth

Dorothy Slater
4 August 2018

When I attended a weekend of Pathways into Prayer three years ago in connection with the URC Vision For Life I was intrigued to see among the list of workshops available to choose, one entitled Praying with the Labyrinth. I had never before come across the use of the labyrinth in prayer, only in connection with myths, usually meaning a type of puzzle or problem. So I chose that workshop which was lead by Mike Playdon.

I found out that labyrinths were a feature of many medieval cathedrals : one of the best remaining ones is in Chartres cathedral in France. They are marked out on the floor often in stone, but unlike a maze they have only one path and there are no dead ends. People walked the labyrinth slowly, as an aid to meditation and reflection or as a form of pilgrimage.

At the workshop we used a specially marked-out cloth in a large hall following the ideas and instructions given us by Mike. I found it a most inspiring and fascinating experience and in the afternoon during some free time I followed the path round the outdoor labyrinth in the grounds of The Hayes centre where we were based. That was quite a different but equally moving activity and I came home after that weekend determined to try to find a way to encourage others to have a go.

I had almost given up as I couldn’t find anywhere near us with a labyrinth, or work out how we could set up one inside for many people. However last year a young man who is a fellow member of my church, told me he’d been to a Youth for Christ weekend and had bought a special kit showing how to set up a labyrinth for a group of people indoors. When I listened to the CD I realised it was a very approachable way for our members of tackling this strange-sounding activity.

It consists of a path to be marked out on the floor of a small hall, walked while listening to a recorded soundtrack to guide you through the journey. It takes about an hour with various stopping places with objects and small activities and suggestions of points of meditation and reflection. Only three or four people were using it at a time and it was all in silence. It really offers time out of your day to think, reflect and grow deeper in your relationship with God.

We decided to have a Labyrinth Day in our church one Saturday in Lent. The people who took part were very positive in their feedback and felt it had been a most worthwhile experience and a wonderful opportunity to step aside from their daily activity. Many said “When can we have another?” So we repeated it one Saturday in Advent and this time the response was overwhelming as the word had gone round! We filled almost all the slots available in the day and had such amazing comeback about the ways people had received help for dealing with their life and coming closer to God that I thought I ought to tell others about how they could have a go at setting one up and perhaps helping their fellow “pilgrims in prayer” see how it might help them along their way.