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Walking Toward a Spiritual Awakening


On a lawn, behind a church, in the quiet little community of Kenville lies a meandering walking path with centuries of history and tradition behind it.
The Kenville United Church Labyrinth was first designed and created in August of 2017, which allows both congregants and the general public to walk along the closely cropped grass path at their leisure. It is located on Main Street in Kenville.
“The eleven circuit Labyrinth is based on the Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth, which was laid in the Cathedral some time between 1194 and 1220,” said Kenville United Church Reverend Kevin Sprong, explaining that the concept of the Labyrinth is very ancient and much older than this design but, as far as he is aware, this particular design goes back as far as the Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth.
Unlike a maze, the Labyrinth is a single path that eventually leads walkers towards the centre of the circle, and then back out along the same path, making it impossible to get lost or happen upon a dead end other than in the centre of the design. It is not a puzzle but an exercise in meditation and self-reflection.
“We think that the original purpose of the Labyrinth was as an alternative to pilgrimages to Jerusalem and other Holy Land sites, all of which were cut off by the Muslim invasions of the Middle East (at that point in history),” said Sprong. “Pilgrims could instead go on a virtual pilgrimage by walking the Labyrinth.”
Sprong added that there are a number of ways that the Labyrinth could and has been used, and there is no one prescriptive way that one needs to physically walk it or what one is to take away from it.
“We invite people to view it as a sacred walk,” he said. “We suggest that they hold an important question or something that is on their mind at the start of the Labyrinth walk.
“As they walk, they are invited to pause at the turns and reflect on this particular question. As they get closer to the centre, they are invited to consider how the question affects their innermost being and, as they move closer to the outside, to consider how what is going on in their mind seems related to the outside world or the people in their circles.
“For some, this becomes a sacred journey of discovering new insights about what is bothering them, what they are hoping for or direction for their way forward,” Sprong continued. “The twists and turns and the pauses can have a healing effect, especially on those wrestling with grief or those wanting direction on an important decision they must make.”
He added that one can walk the Labyrinth by themselves or in a group, recommending that there be a leader present if people are walking in a group, with a recommended time of reflection and sharing afterwards.
“(This is symbolic) of a journey in which the sacred – symbolized by the centre – sometimes comes very close during the walking,” said Sprong. “The pauses, the sense of being on a journey with others, the quietness and nature all help to allow the mystery of the sacred to draw near. For Christians, we might say, ‘an opportunity for God to draw near to us’.”
All are welcome to partake in the walk whenever and however they like during the months when the Labyrinth is visible. A posted sign on the site gives some suggestions for use, and a pamphlet available at the Swan Valley Tourist Centre also gives some information.
“I encourage people to walk (the Labyrinth) because it has been enormously helpful for me in finding direction in some important decisions I have had to make,” said Sprong. “For instance, I have recently been asked to consider a change in ministry position and the Labyrinth helped me make a decision about that.
“Some people have found the Labyrinth to be a place of healing-of-memories that haunt them from their past. Others have had some of their self-esteem restored as they walked. Still others have been enabled to work with deeply painful grief on the walk, and so on. I am aware of at least one person who believed that as she walked the Labyrinth, she heard a call to ministry there.
“Some of this and more is what we hope for people to experience,” Sprong concluded.

Jeremy Bergen