On Thursday, September 14 at 5:30, the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrews will offer a free community supper and conversation that it hopes will jump start the process of establishing a community labyrinth in Greenfield. The parish has received two grants to help it pursue this dream: one is a Loaves and Fishes grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, and the other is a Mission Development Initiative grant from the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts. Both of these grants support the vision behind the dream of a community labyrinth: that a fully accessible, centrally located labyrinth will offer opportunities for healing, stress reduction and inner harmony at a time when people’s lives are too often filled with tension and discord.
The labyrinth is a flat often circular design that is similar to a maze except that it has only one route in and one route out: it is impossible to become disoriented or get lost. Its history goes back at least 3000 years; labyrinths are found in many countries and cultures and are used in a variety of ways to deepen lives and as places of celebration.
Master labyrinth builder Robert Ferre describes in this way the powerful benefits of labyrinth walking in his 2002 book The Labyrinth Revival, A Personal Account:
“One of the outcomes of walking a labyrinth is a sense of improved equilibrium. We feel more balanced. Some people claim that the labyrinth stimulates the right brain, but I think it activates both hemispheres…some companies are rethinking the wisdom of putting workers at odds with each other. It’s more productive for them to cooperate. The labyrinth is being used for team building exercises…Instead of a cigarette break, why not a labyrinth break?... Labyrinths at hospitals also serve as an effective way to decompress… Being collaborative, labyrinths offer the additional power of group events, walking as a community…sharing the same path with others.”
The book further illustrates with testimony from dozens of labyrinth walkers and builders why this form of walking meditation is finding so many adherents today: It can be a metaphor for life. The walker can see both the path and the goal, but with no shortcuts and no choices. The walk can be either collaborative or inward-directed, and benefits could include increased self-knowledge and confidence, often with access to a calm, meditative state.
A group of parishioners at the Greenfield Episcopal church began offering indoor labyrinth walks several years ago in hopes of connecting with others in the community who were looking for ways to practice walking meditation or to explore new avenues for personal change, spiritual growth or inner healing. After this initial period of offering walks on a portable labyrinth, the group is excited to expand these offerings by finding a location and a group of community partners that will make possible the establishment of a permanent community labyrinth that is open to all. The dinner, short film and conversation being offered on September 14 aim to begin building a community team that will work together on this project.
All are welcome. RSVP by Sep. 11 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions? Call Elise, 413 834-1998