Church invites the community to walk its ‘path of prayers’First Presbyterian Church is inviting the public to walk its new labyrinth. “It’s a wonderful thing and we hope the community feels free to come out and use it at any time,” said Tom Aitchison, a member of the five-person committee that planned and oversaw construction of the labyrinth in June.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
First Presbyterian Church is inviting the public to walk its new labyrinth.
“It’s a wonderful thing and we hope the community feels free to come out and use it at any time,” said Tom Aitchison, a member of the five-person committee that planned and oversaw construction of the labyrinth in June.
The modern meditative labyrinth is an intricate circle of pathways leading into and out of the center of the design. Some are inlaid in the floors of cathedrals while others are found on the grounds of universities and hospitals.
Hudson got its first labyrinth when the new Hudson Hospital and Clinics opened in 2003.
First Presbyterian’s labyrinth lies in a wooded area at the back of the church parking lot.
It’s a 45-foot circle of crushed granite, with bricks marking seven circuits of pathways that lead to a small circle in the center. Two curved, teakwood benches are placed in the center circle.
A welcome sign at the entrance to the short trail leading to the labyrinth calls it “a path of prayer and meditation.” A mailbox on the same post holds flyers explaining the purpose of the labyrinth and what to do while walking it.
“There’s no incorrect way to walk a labyrinth, but there are some suggested ways,” said Aitchison. “It’s a controlled walk – and yet there’s no wrong way.”
The flyer says the journey toward the center of the labyrinth is a time to shed the distractions cluttering your mind or heart.
“Before embarking on your journey, offer a silent prayer or breathe deeply as you still your mind. Release your thoughts and prepare to walk with God.”
It suggests pondering a question, word or phrase on the way in.
“The center is a place to pause and dwell with God. You may receive from God’s spirit or simply rest in the divine presence,” the instructions say. “The journey out of the labyrinth prepares you for re-entry. Walk out to empower yourself and to integrate what you have learned or received.”
The flyer also offers a few rules of the road: it’s OK to pass slow walkers; step aside, and then back on the path, when meeting others; and respect the quietness of others who may be praying on the path.
“Walk as you feel led,” the instructions add. “This may be slowly and meditatively, or playfully and energetically.”
Labyrinths are thousands of years old and have been used by various cultures over the centuries from ancient Egyptians to medieval Christians to Native Americans.
The beautiful Gothic Chartres Cathedral in France has one inlaid in its floor, as does Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.
While labyrinths aren’t a Presbyterian tradition, they are historically places of prayer and meditation, noted the Rev. Stephanie Anthony, pastor at First Presbyterian.
Through the window of her office, Anthony sees people using the labyrinth almost every day.
“It’s getting very good use,” she said.
Aitchison said he’s gotten a lot of positive feedback about the labyrinth from both people in the community and members of First Presbyterian.
How it happened
According to Aitchison, the idea making a labyrinth originated when the First Presbyterian congregation was still worshipping at its old church on Third Street.
Thelma Nagle and Jody Branson, the congregation’s music and arts coordinator, had attended a church gathering where they learned about labyrinths.
Talk had started about building a new church on the congregation’s eight acres on Vine Street. Nagle and Branson suggested that when the new church was built, it should have a labyrinth on the grounds.
The new church was built in 2005, with the dedication occurring on Jan. 9, 2006.
Aitchison said plans for the labyrinth got put in the back burner while the congregation concerned itself with the funding and completion of the church.
Then a couple of years ago, Bill and Winkie Coyne offered to donate some trees for the church grounds.
The church’s property committee decided it should have a master plan for the grounds before the trees were placed. The Coynes paid for the trees and the plan, which included a spot for the labyrinth.
The late Sandra Griswold initiated construction of the labyrinth as a final act of community service act in a lifetime giving. Griswold, a former Hudson High School counselor and founder of Community Action (now Youth Action Hudson), asked that part of the memorial money given when she died May 12, 2008, go to building the First Presbyterian labyrinth. She also named the Hudson Area Library Foundation as a recipient of her memorial funds.
Aitchison said enough money came in to begin the project.
He and Anthony, Nagle, Branson and Vicky Erickson formed a committee that planned and supervised the project.
Lisa Gidlow Morairty, a well-known labyrinth consultant from Stillwater, Minn., served as an advisor on the project.
Dennis Caliva of Earthworks Landscape Architects of River Falls designed and constructed the labyrinth. First Presbyterian members volunteered labor.
First Presbyterian members Vincent and Nancy Gin found the teakwood benches located at the center of the labyrinth, and paid for one of them.
Memorial money in honor of the Donna Mueller, who passed away June 14, 2009, was the other major source of funding for the project.
Mueller’s daughter Annie Blide recently transplanted large hostas from her own yard to a shady patch next to the labyrinth.