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By Kathy Chatelaine, Director for Global Mission/Companion Synods
Have you ever walked a prayer labyrinth? Used by Christians since the fourth century, the prayer labyrinth is a path within a circle that leads to the center, then back out. Although walked in solitude, a person may encounter others either coming or going while walking. Christians have walked the labyrinth for many reasons, including prayer and meditation as well as celebrations of Easter’s journey from death to resurrection.
My first experience with a prayer labyrinth was at Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. Our daughter, Katherine, was fulfilling a seminary internship as Worship Assistant for the Village. I went to Holden to experience her ministry as well as to heal from a three-year accompaniment of my ailing parents during their final months. Hearing of the Village’s labyrinth from a fellow sojourner, I was eager to encounter it. At dawn on the morning before I left Holden, I began my labyrinth walk of healing. Choosing two stones that I carried in each hand, I remembered life with my parents on the circuitous walk, releasing painful memories while celebrating their lives. Placing the stones in the labyrinth’s center, I basked in the peace that God desires for each of us. A while later, I again began to walk the path: this time the destination was the labyrinth’s exit to the life I was called to live. My exit walk was filled with hope, joy and praise!
This spring, I joined thirty women from Trinity (Owatonna) on a retreat at Mt. Olivet Conference Center. Upon learning of the center’s labyrinth, I again felt called to prayerfully walk it. My focus this time was not healing, but rather discernment as I had been experiencing not so gentle ‘nudges’ from the Holy Spirit to leave the Catholic school community to which I had been called these past thirteen years. As I entered and began to journey towards the center, I meditated on I Samuel 3 – “Here I am! Speak, for thy servant hears” – and listened. Although the answer to my prayer was not ‘writing on the wall’ or ‘a voice coming out of a cloud,’ I was filled with the assurance that God, as always, was accompanying me.
The prayer labyrinth is a metaphor of life: A combination of straight pathways and abrupt turns, life’s ultimate destination is its core: The Holy Trinity. And, as tempting as it might be to remain in the center, Lutherans are called to ‘walk alongside our brothers and sisters to grow the church and to do God’s work of restoring and reconciling communities everywhere.’ And so, after a time of prayer and renewal, it is time to exit the labyrinth – to ‘follow Jesus into a changing world.’
You can probably guess the next chapter of my discernment story: God called me to the Office of the Bishop of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod, ELCA as Director for Global Mission/Companion Synods. The assurance I received that spring day in the labyrinth fills me with confidence as I navigate my new call.
Did you know that on the lovely grounds of Assisi Heights, the home of the Office of the Bishop and my new work environment, there is a prayer labyrinth? When you are in Rochester, you are warmly invited to walk the labyrinth. And, after your walk, be sure to stop into the office for a refreshing drink and a friendly visit! All are welcome in this place!