A-maze-ing grace

Jul. 06, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

St. Luke United Methodist Church is building a labyrinth.

The church’s maze won’t have high walls, nor put anyone at risk of getting lost. St. Luke does, however, intend for people to get lost in thought and prayer as they tread the stone path that will be located near the pond and outdoor chapel.

“On the way in, you’re confessing your sin and your need for God,” said churchgoer Jeanne Bethea, the driving force behind the prayer labyrinth. “In the middle, you pause and meditate on the Lord, and on the way out, you reflect on your life.”

Although labyrinths are most commonly associated with ancient Crete, where myths say one was built to house the horrific half-man, half-bull known as the minotaur, they have been closely linked with Christianity for centuries. Many Gothic cathedrals in France boast elaborate labyrinths, including the most famous one in Chartres, which was built around the year 1200.

The path of that labyrinth winds for 286 yards — nearly as long as three football fields, or one Midway-class aircraft carrier — and historical accounts have said such labyrinths were probably used either for ritual dances at Easter or to act as a substitute for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land at a time when few people ever traveled more than a few miles from where they were born.

Travel has become easier, but prayer labyrinths are still being built all over the world. The one at St. Luke, located at 2916 Wicker St. in Sanford, was to be completed by the end of May, Bethea said. But wedding ceremonies at the outdoor chapel, followed by heavy and seemingly non-stop rain in recent weeks, have delayed construction.

When it is finished, said Rev. Jaye White, it could become a part of some of those outdoor weddings, with the bride entering one end and the groom entering at the other, walking in prayer until they meet in the middle. But anyone, not just newlyweds or members of the church, will be welcome to use it. There will also be instructions posted for those who want or need guidance.

“We hope to have it be available to the whole community,” White said. “We want people to come and spend time in prayer and meditation.”