People in Queens County will have the opportunity to walk the Diocesan Labyrinth, set to be in Trinity Hall in Liverpool from Dec. 3 to 7 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Dec. 8 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Carolyn Howard, a parishioner, is slated to lead workshops on Dec. 5 and 6 at 1:30 p.m. for those who would like more structured introductions.
“This labyrinth that’s coming here is a large piece of fabric that has a design of the labyrinth painted on it,” says Chaplain Donald Lawton, Rector of the Anglican Parish of South Queens.
According to Lawton, the labyrinth dates back to the middle ages – a time when taking pilgrimages was “very much a part of people’s spiritual lives.”
While rich people could afford to take short or long pilgrimages, people with less money couldn’t. For those who couldn’t afford to go, labyrinths were built in the floors of cathedrals or in churchyards.
As an example, Lawton compares the idea of the labyrinth to people cycling across Canada or the world on their exercise bicycles.
“They’ll actually put a map up on the wall,” he says.
He says so many circuits of the labyrinth could represent a pilgrimage to a shrine or to Jerusalem.
“Sometimes very devout people did it kneeling, walking on their knees as part of their pilgrimage – for a pilgrimage of penance,” says Lawton.
“Rich people had a labyrinth built in their gardens.”
Parts of Europe still have labyrinths, some of which are in gardens surrounded by rose bushes.
While they look like mazes, Lawton says they have only one path. The path always leads to the centre, and then the person turns around and walks back.
“Most labyrinths are built with some sort of cross-like shape to them because the cross is the central Christian symbol,” says Lawton.
“Sometimes the cross is not evident until you get to the centre.”
“I think pilgrimages have lost some of their appeal or popularity because other forms of travel or vacation have taken over,” says Lawton.
This does not mean pilgrimages have fallen entirely by the wayside.
Muslims must go on a pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca at some point in their lives, says Lawton.
He says there are still also a number of pilgrimages in Europe connected with Roman Catholic shrines. The Way of James (or in Spanish, El Camino de Santiago) is a famous walk to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwest Spain.
Another pilgrimage is the Canterbury Trail in England that takes people to Canterbury Cathedral.
“It’s another experience for our spiritual lives,” says Lawton about why people should walk through the labyrinth.
He says it’s also a way for people to take time from their busy lives to focus on the spiritual.
“It’s not going to be for everyone,” says Lawton.
Others might want something different, but he says he expects those who try will get more out of it the more they do it.