Dedication ceremony held for church labyrinth

Known as classical labyrinth, the oldest pattern found in recorded history

By Paul Henderson
Lansing State Journal

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — When the Plymouth Congregational Church was looking for a place to build their labyrinth, they didn’t have to look far.

“We looked at (the grounds) and said ‘Yeah, that’s OK,’ but then we turned around and saw the church and said ‘Yes sir! There it is,” church member Pat Carrow said.
And recently, there it was. Dozens turned out for the dedication ceremony for the new labyrinth.

Labyrinths, or circular mazes, date back to ancient Greece. They are designed to offer a spiritual journey of prayer to those who travel through them. While they can be constructed in varying degrees of difficulty, most, like the new Plymouth labyrinth, are not designed to challenge the user.

“Labyrinths are ways people can make spiritual journeys, when they couldn’t take a physical trip,” foreman for the project and church member Judith Evans said. “There is a sense of entering into the labyrinth, looking for renewal, coming to the center to find a peace, a centering, an answer and coming out of the labyrinth a changed person, spiritually, maybe physically and emotionally.”

The Plymouth labyrinth is dedicated to Betsy Sessions, who died in March and was one of the leading advocates for the project, and Berniece Rakowski, who died in 2011. Rakowski’s daughter, Joy Baumgartner is the church’s current interim pastor.

The church, with the help of an anonymous donor, raised $3,500 to fund the project.

Plymouth’s labyrinth is one of four in the Lansing area. Its pattern is known as a classical labyrinth, which is the oldest pattern found in recorded history. The labyrinth is made up of a mixture of Michigan blue stone and red Spanish tile and paths are made of Ohio lime stone.

Three stone benches and several boulders surround the labyrinth, offering visitors a place to sit. Eventually, one of the boulders will have what’s known as a ‘finger labyrinth’ carved into it — a more accessible spiritual journey for people who can’t make the walk.

Baumgartner came to the church nearly two and half years ago, wanting to find a way to reach out into the community and put the church back on its feet.

Baumgartner and members of the church formed a group called the “Positive Vision Committee” to think of ideas to reach out to the community. That’s when talks first turned to the labyrinth.

The labyrinth and stone benches and boulders are only the beginning part of the four phase project.

Next spring, the church hopes to plant trees and bushes around the labyrinth, as well as a perennial garden.