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Friday, December 1, 2023

The Lakefield United Church labyrinth walks

BY VANESSA STARK

The Lakefield United Church is offering residents a unique experience to calm their minds and connect to their spirit.

On the third Monday of every month, Rev. Kerrie Perry sets up a labyrinth at the church for an open walk.  

Perry explained that a labyrinth is something designed from sacred geometry with one way in and one way out. It is not a maze where there are wrong turns, blockages, and places people can get lost.

Rather a labyrinth is a pattern that is easily followed that allows the mind to focus and mediate. Perry said they have been used for over 4,000 years all over the world and in many different cultures.

“Walking a labyrinth can lower your blood pressure, calm your mind, it lowers your heart rate, and it calms your breathing. It’s very much a meditation kind of practice. You don’t need to have any kind of Faith whatsoever to walk it.”

Kerrie Perry has lent her own labyrinth to the Lakefield United Church which is printed on a 32 ft. canvas.

She explained how she came to learn about the power of a labyrinth walk.

Before she came to the Lakefield United Church, she had a role as the faith formation Minister for a large area of churches. There, her main role was to work with children and youth.

“One of the pieces of work that I did annually was a three-day retreat for young people. And it was in conjunction with an annual meeting for the regulating body of the church. And there was a children’s program, a youth program, and a young adult program and I was with the youth program. The young adult program decided that they were going to walk a labyrinth,”

The camp had created a big labyrinth out of masking tape on the floor in the auditorium. When the older group was not using it, it was offered to Perry and her group.

“We decided we would offer that to the young teens as an opportunity to walk. None of the leadership had done it before and many of the kids hadn’t done it before either. So when we walked it, there were probably 35 or 40 of us, teens and youth leaders walking it and the entire space for the whole time was completely silent. To have that many teens together and have it silent, it’s kind of crazy and it just felt like such a beautiful calm, peaceful, holy moment.”

She went on to say that every kid who walked the labyrinth chose that activity as their favourite part of the weekend over things such as dances and capture the flag.

After that experience, Perry wanted to learn more about this practice.

“I went to Five Oaks, which is a United Church Spiritual Education center down in Paris, Ontario and took the three-day course with about 20 other people from all over Ontario and Canada and have been using it ever since. And so, when I became ordained, the congregation that I was with gave me a gift when I was leaving and there was a large cash portion of that and I used that cash to commission someone to make the labyrinth for me.”

Perry has had her canvas labyrinth since 2006 and is now offering it free of charge to the community every third Monday of each month for a drop in event between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. to begin your walk. This month drop in walks will take place on Dec. 18.

Residents are asked to make the walk in bare or socked feet. However the walk can accommodate mobility challenges such as wheelchairs and walkers.

There are also mediation stations set up around the room for residents to participate in either before, after, or instead of a labyrinth walk.

Anyone wanting to try this practice but who can’t make it out on Mondays are encouraged to reach out to the church to make accommodations.