Williamstown, MA - During January of 2005, about two dozen members of the Williams College community helped to create a 36-foot portable canvas labyrinth which is a replica of the one at Chartres. This is an eleven-circuit design divided into four quadrants.
Several times each semester, for several days at a time, the labyrinth is spread out and available free of charge to the whole community for many kinds of meditative use. This Lent it will be available in the Fellowship Hall of the First Congregational Church from 7 am-3:30 pm Tuesday, April 7 and Wednesday, April 8, and from 7 am-7 pm on Maundy Thursday, April 9, and Good Friday, April 10.
The labyrinth is an ancient device for walking meditation. While many find walking the Labyrinth a spiritual experience, it has no direct ties to any specific faith community and can be enjoyed by people of all faiths as well as by those who feel no affiliation with any organized religion. Though one of its most familiar manifestations is engraved in the stone floor of the 13th century nave of Chartres cathedral near Paris, France, it has pre-Christian roots in many cultures, and people have been walking the convoluted path to the center and back again for countless centuries.
The labyrinth looks like a maze – but you can’t get lost! The beautifully complex path always leads faithfully to the center, and then always back out again to the waiting world. During your labyrinth walk you will meander through each of the four quadrants several times as you wend your way to the center and back out.
There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth and for most people no two labyrinth walks are alike. Most people need about 20 or 30 minutes for a gentle, reflective walk to the center and then back out again – though it’s possible to stretch the journey longer, or to linger in the center. Adults usually enjoy walking slowly along the winding path, while children often run or skip.
Any preparation, any kind of mindfulness that's helpful to you and nourishing to your inner life before walking the labyrinth, is appropriate and welcome. You will find printed sheets with suggestions on how to structure your walk and be asked to remove your shoes to protect the canvas.
A journal is available wherever and whenever the labyrinth is set up for walkers to write in or enjoy reading what others have written. One walker poignantly wrote: “Thanks for a calm place in the storm.”
The First Congregational Church is located at 906 Main Street (Rt. 2) in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The building is fully handicap accessible and parking is available behind the church off of Chapin Hall Drive. For more information on the Williams College Labyrinth call the Chaplain’s office at 413-597-2483