Labyrinths and Lent

17th February 2022

As many of you know Helen and I have a new addition to the family – Olive the Caravan! We went on our first trip just recently and despite some small issues, we loved it and I learnt some new things about myself and caravan life. Firstly, I never knew that driving at 56mph could be so relaxing. Secondly, I learnt that before you turn in at night you need to know where you’ve put your glasses! Finally, I realised that however much you pack, halve it and then halve it again – space is at a premium and caravan life demands that you live more simply. But going to sleep looking at the stars, hearing birdsong first thing and quality time chatting to Helen was a joy.

I also had a go at a labyrinth. Our caravan site (just 5 pitches) had some lovely walks and the owner had carved into the grass a small, detailed labyrinth and invited people to have a go. Labyrinths in Christian spirituality go back at least 1700 years and all over the world they are used by thousands of people as a spiritual tool for prayer, reflection, contemplation, meditation and worship. Most are found in churches, some in hospitals or retreat centres and perhaps they have a greater significance and influence than we fully appreciate. The most famous one in our part of the world is found in Chartres cathedral in France (see below).

The key to walking a labyrinth is taking time, slowing down and being open to God. It is suggested that you make each step a year in your life or a special moment of remembering where God was, is and will be in the journey of life which can often be a bit of a labyrinth.

I walked it first with Mabel which didn’t work too well – she was keen to get to the centre directly, taking all the short cuts. Maybe that’s a bit like us as well – our journeys often get us close to a particular point or place only to see us move away from it unexpectedly. So close and then so far. I then walked it myself and took the time to pray as I did – it felt a bit strange at first, but the obedience required to follow the path and the openness to God (to say nothing about the beauty of the day and the birdsong filling the air) increasingly allowed me to sense God’s presence as I followed the path.

I wonder whether our journey in Lent is a bit like a labyrinth – 40 days of discipline, study, fasting, reflection that we undertake alone or with others.  It may be hard to stay on the course, but we take one step at a time, one day at a time – a long walk of obedience in the same direction as Pastor and theologian Eugene Peterson once put it. We have set before you a wide range of individual and group events or interests which I hope you will access and embrace as much as you can. Our Lent Menu is available here and we’ll be praying that you are moved to make a choice and prepare yourself for the journey we take together in Lent, towards the Cross and ultimately to the mystery, wonder and joy of Easter Day. 

Revd Paul