By Sandy Artzberger | St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church
Pagosa Springs is unique in many ways. Part of the uniqueness is that we have a labyrinth and even more unique is who built it. The labyrinth is on the grounds of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church (located next to the hospital).
A labyrinth is often mistaken for a maze where, when you enter, there are multiple paths to choose from, often resulting in becoming lost. A labyrinth has only one path in that leads to the center. However, the path takes a circuitous route which the mind can’t anticipate and thus the mind relaxes often moving into calmness, serenity, a time of new awareness and direction, a time of healing, a time with God, a feeling of a higher presence, order emerging from chaos, etc.
The history of labyrinths goes back to 4500 BC Egypt, when they were built in front of tombs to keep evil spirits out due to their orderly design. Scandinavian fishermen would walk the labyrinth praying for a good catch and then run out of the center so the slow trolls bringing misfortune wouldn’t join them. When no longer safe for Christian pilgrims to journey to Jerusalem, cathedrals such as Chartres Cathedral in France used labyrinth walks to symbolize a spiritual pilgrimage. In 1996, the Rev. Lauren Artress from Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco, through a group called Veriditas, started a labyrinth revival movement.
The history of St. Patrick’s labyrinth is unique because it was primarily built by children ranging in ages from primary school through high school over a period of 15 years — not adults doing all the work and giving credit to the children, but children doing most of the work helped by adults. From 1998 through 2003, when Anne Ryder was priest at St. Pat’s, a far-sighted group of Sunday school teachers presented to the leadership team a plan to create an outdoor 12-lap Chartres labyrinth. This would be an ongoing Sunday school project open to the community.
At the time, there were at least 25 children involved who came from the Episcopal, Methodist, Catholic and Unitarian churches in Pagosa. The vision was to create a labyrinth that would be open to everyone in the community for perpetuity. Over the summers, Sunday school children and friends gathered rocks, cleared the space for the labyrinth and ended work sessions with a picnic. For three summers, teenagers came from Ascension Episcopal Church in Pueblo, Colo., and once teenagers from Church of the Annunciation in Lewisville, Texas. They came to work on the labyrinth for a week at a time as their “mission project.” Now, the Venture Crew Scouts of Pagosa Springs clean the labyrinth annually and have made benches for it.
St. Pat’s labyrinth, located across from the parking lot, is open daily. Look for a large wooden cross. On Fridays from 10 to 11 a.m., there are docents available to give in-depth details about the labyrinth and handouts for a self-guided walk.
Primarily, the labyrinth is a time for individual reflection and walking, but can be used for special occasions. Last year, we honored our interim priest who was leaving with a celebration at the labyrinth. It consisted of a prayerful walk, singing of meditational songs and a special meal. Special labyrinth events open to the community are being considered for this summer/fall.