“It is a way of inviting people of many faith traditions to pray, meditate or maybe just relax in whatever way satisfies their heart. Our Labyrinth is a gift from us to the whole community.” – Rev. Steve Capitelli
By John Koski
A corn maze or child’s puzzle it is not. Although a cursory glance may seem to indicate a similarity, there is nothing confusing or puzzling about the new outdoor labyrinth at St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church, Elkhorn.
The goal is not to find a way in our out, according to church member Mary Koss, and there are no dead ends. Rather, it has a clearly defined path that leads to the center and back out again.
“The labyrinth is a tool that gives shape to meditation and prayer,” Koss said, noting that walking a labyrinth is a way to quiet the mind, recover balance in life and reduce stress.
A sign at the entrance to the labyrinth encourages users to take their time and walk in their own way as they move along the pathway.
“The labyrinth allows us to approach God in our own way, in our own time, in whatever way the Spirit moves us,” said Rev. Steve Capitelli, the church’s pastor.
“It is also important for our parish to be able to offer the Labyrinth to the community around us,” Capitelli said. “It is a way of inviting people of many faith traditions to pray, meditate or maybe just relax in whatever way satisfies their heart. Our Labyrinth is a gift from us to the whole community.”
Providing full access
“Accessibility was something we talked about a lot,” said parishioner Thomas Koonz, noting that the labyrinth committee wanted to ensure that all community members would be able to benefit from its use.
“The flat, smooth surface enables people with canes or in wheelchairs to experience the labyrinth,” Koss said.
“We also installed a smaller version of the labyrinth on a rock overlooking the main labyrinth,” Koonz said. “So if you are unable to walk it, you can follow it by tracing the route with your finger. You can actually walk it with your fingers.”
The current labyrinth is the third one that St. John’s parishioners have built on the site on the northeast corner of S. Church St. and W. Geneva St. The labyrinth is immediately adjacent to the church.
“We completed our first labyrinth about 10 years ago,” said Koonz. “It started out as a pathway that was surrounded by tiny plants. It was attractive, but then the plants started growing and before long you could hardly walk the path. It was a good idea, but there just weren’t enough of us to maintain it.”
The second labyrinth consisted of two-tone gravel, Koss said, which also was difficult to maintain.
The current labyrinth began as a project at a church development program Koonz and Koss attended.
“Our initial thoughts were to enrich the existing labyrinth or possibly replace it,” Koss said. “I don’t know that we even dreamed that it would look like this.”
“A circular concrete slab was poured for the labyrinth in early spring,” Koss said, “and the project wasn’t completed until the end of September.”
For most of spring and summer it was a plain concrete slab with no markings, she said. As a result, a number of people who are not members of the church thought St. John’s had done away with the labyrinth.
“Several people came up to us and said, ‘What did you do?’ and ‘Why did you do this?’ We had no idea that there were so many people using it. We are hoping that continues to grow.”
Bentley Kingan of Burlington was chosen as the artist for the project. Kingan consulted well-known labyrinth designer Robert Ferre to ensure that every detail was authentic. For example, the St. John’s labyrinth has 114 lunations (marks along the edge of the labyrinth originally thought to form a lunar calendar) that needed to be precisely spaced.
“The labyrinth pathway and lunations were created by using stencils and a sprayed-on splatter texture,” Kingan said. “The texture is two-tone tan that complements the color of the church’s brick walls. The biggest challenge we faced was all of the details. A lot of effort went into creating the labyrinth.”
“Our other two labyrinths were done with good intentions,” Koonz said, “but they were never quite right. When we first talked about this labyrinth it was not what I envisioned at all. It is much grander than we thought. This is gorgeous.”
For more information about the labyrinth or St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church, go to http://www.st.johninthewilderness.com.