From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Florida United Methodists to dedicate prayer labyrinth

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 10 Dec 1999 07:55:42

Dec. 9, 1999 News media contact: Linda Bloom·(212) 870-3803·New York

By United Methodist News Service

Florida's United Methodists will dedicate one of the largest prayer
labyrinths in the world on New Year's Eve.

The 11-circuit labyrinth - constituting a walk of more than two miles -- can
be found at the Life Enrichment Center in Leesburg, Fla., which serves as a
retreat center for the United Methodist Florida Annual (regional)

This permanent installation, as well as a traveling canvas labyrinth, is one
of the methods being used by the conference's office of spiritual formation
to help people pray. 

"The journey (on the labyrinth path) is the event," said the Rev. Patricia
Brown, director of spiritual formation. "For me, it's just a time to clear
my mind and let the spirit work."

Labyrinths, or structures of interconnecting passages, date back to ancient
cultures and were first used by Christian churches for prayer and meditation
as early as 350. The design being used in Florida first appeared in the
Middle Ages and can be found in the inlaid floor of Chartres Cathedral in

A single path lies in 11 concentric circles with 34 turns, leading into the
12th circle or the center. But the labyrinth is not a maze. "A maze you get
lost in, there are tricks and turns," Brown explained. With the labyrinth,
"you can see the entire design before you begin. All you have to do is stay
on the path in order to walk it."

The first part of the walk is a time of cleansing and asking for forgiveness
from God, she said. In the center, participants can offer prayers and
petitions. Walking back out on the same path, "it's a time of going on into
the world to claim your mission for God."

Participants will encounter others along the path. "It's a very personal
experience, but it's never a private experience because there are other
people on the journey with you," Brown added.

The Florida Conference has designed its labyrinth to be Christ-centered.
Before walking the path, participants hear a talk about the Christian
meaning of the labyrinth as a prayer tool. A basin of water sits at the
path's entrance, symbolizing baptism, and a cross is found in the center.
Holy communion also can be found at the head of the labyrinth, along with
anointing oil for prayer, healing and the forgiveness of sins.

The dedication of the labyrinth will be part of a New Year's Eve gathering
at labyrinths around the world. Overnight reservations are available. Events
include a candlelight dinner buffet at 7 p.m., a choice of one of 19
workshops or lectures at 8 and a watch night service at 10:30. Shortly after
11:30, participants will walk through a candlelit path to the labyrinth,
carrying their own candles. They will surround the labyrinth and ring bells
at midnight.

More information on the labyrinth or the New Year events is available by
calling Margaret Carter at (941) 688-5563 or on the Internet at

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United Methodist News Service
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