The labyrinth at Warrenton United Methodist Church (WUMC) is one of Warrenton’s best kept secrets. Surrounded by flowering trees, shrubs, and perennials, the labyrinth is an 80-foot diameter “walking prayer” area that is open to the public. The prevailing feeling as one walks the labyrinth is meant to be one of peace and tranquility.
Originally constructed in the spring of 1999, the labyrinth was the brainchild of WUMC women’s meditation group. After walking the labyrinth at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, the group was inspired to build an outdoor labyrinth to the right of the church’s main entrance. Two years of planning and fundraising went into the project.
Church member Steve Potucek, along with friends Andrea Schmidt and Mary Loonam, who now run Promise Landscape, laid out the pattern with spray paint. Starting with the center point, they created concentric rings with 24–30-inch wide paths and six-inch wide grass areas in between. The excavation dirt was used to create berms around the perimeter, where flowers and shrubs were later planted. The walkway was filled with stone dust and then covered with one third of a mile of flagstone. The labyrinth was dedicated on May 30, 1999.
“For us it was another way to pray and meditate, a way of making a journey to God,” recalls Beth Chadsey, the meditation group leader. “For me personally, it was a journey to my own center, which embodies Christ. As I walked in, I let things go; on my way out, I felt thanksgiving.” Fellow group member Susan Dove adds, “Walking the labyrinth is a way to center myself with the Holy Spirit that lives and reigns within me.”
The labyrinth at WUMC is a replica of the most famous medieval labyrinth, which is set into the floor stones in the nave of Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France. It is an 11-circuit design, divided into four quadrants, and encircled by an outer ring of lunations. The spiritual center goal, the resting place, is defined by a six-petal rosette pattern, reminiscent of the sacred lotus—symbol of Enlightenment. There is only one path in, and by reversing, it leads back out again.
During the early days of Christianity, many devout Christians made the dangerous pilgrimage to Jerusalem each year. Later, it is thought that labyrinths were designed in the medieval Christian churches as a symbolic pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Walking the labyrinth clears the mind and gives insight into life’s journey. It calms those in the throes of transition and helps them see life in the context of a path. We realize we are not humans on a spiritual path, but rather spiritual beings on a human path. The journey is different for everyone, for each brings different raw material to the labyrinth. What do we seek? If we don’t know, we might miss it when it greets us on our journey through life.
WUMC has recently invested in adding to the gardens surrounding the labyrinth. It will be used as a memorial garden where people can remember their loved ones by adopting trees, shrubs, or other items such as benches. The gazebo, dedicated in memory of Annie Rose Cheatwood Pisch, was added in June 2006. As part of the church’s upcoming 200-year anniversary celebration in October, the labyrinth and memorial gardens will be rededicated.
“We had a lot of help from the community when the labyrinth was built,” Steve says. “It was always by the community and for the community, not just for our church.” You are invited to come and walk the labyrinth whenever you like. Enjoy the peace and serenity. Leave a changed person.