A new prayer labyrinth on the grounds of Encounter Lutheran College has been many years in the dreaming, but just a few short weeks in the making. The collaboration between Victor Harbor Lutheran Church and Encounter Lutheran College was made a reality thanks to an LLL 100 Year Anniversary Grant.
Both Pastor Nigel Rosenzweig from Victor Harbor Lutheran Church and Encounter Principal Kelvin Grivel agreed that a newly acquired block at the rear of the college proved the perfect space to explore new learning opportunities.
“We were keen to see how the space could be used to promote a greater understanding of our spirituality, and the relationship that exists between ourselves, others, God and creation,” said Pastor Nigel.
Since 2009 Pastor Nigel has had an interest in developing sacred spaces, interactive prayer stations and labyrinths. His interest in labyrinths for school ministry grew after attending a workshop with Pastor Rick Zweck at a Lutheran Education conference in 2014. Similarly, Kelvin had always dreamt of having a labyrinth on campus.
A successful application for a generous LLL grant saw plans for the building of a series of outdoor prayer stations set in motion, and the labyrinth design phase began.
“We started to consider what would be the most usable, effective and flexible way to build a ‘stations of the cross’ walk,” says Pastor Nigel.
“We looked at creating a lineal path through the bush and also explored traditional labyrinth designs. We then found a way of modifying a traditional labyrinth to be able to host a series of 15 stations along the pathway.”
After the design was agreed upon, the deadline was set – the goal was to have the labyrinth ready to use by Holy Week.
A fantastic effort from the church and school community saw the project come together quickly. Congregation volunteers cleared the site, transplanted native vegetation, marked out the pathway and dug out prayer gardens. The college property team levelled the area, laid the limestone base, and set in place the two main feature stones. Limestone rocks were arranged to line pathways and create decorative features, and to form a giant cross that reaches out around the outside of the labyrinth. Encounter Junior School students also got involved, creating the colourful illustrations displayed at each station.
The labyrinth is designed to enable people to recreate the effects of taking a long walk, but within a small space. Across cultures labyrinths have been used as tools to aid mindfulness, wellbeing, awareness and prayerful reflection.
“With the help of a simple word, idea or verse, the slow walk can create space for people to give attention to the thoughts the Holy Spirit places on their heart and mind,” says Pastor Nigel.
“The traditional way to walk a labyrinth is to enter and follow the path slowly to the centre, pause for a while, then follow the path back out the same way you came in. The ‘stations of the cross walk’ we have set up will be used a little differently – people will experience the first 14 stations on the way to the centre of the labyrinth, but then take a unique ‘escape route’ to experience the final station.”
The labyrinth was officially opened at a dedication ceremony in April, and the project also marked a milestone for Encounter principal, Kelvin.
“This project has also become a way of giving thanks to God for Kelvin, who has celebrated ten years at the college and is now in his 11th year as principal,” says Pastor Nigel.
Encounter College students have already had the chance to use the labyrinth, with principal Kelvin seeing it as a blessing to the college community.
“Every student at Encounter has engaged in this space during Holy Week and we’re grateful to Pastor Nigel and our Victor Harbor congregation for their generosity and hard work.”
It is hoped that the community and college students will use the labyrinth often in the years ahead as a tool to aid in reflection, reconciliation and renewal.
Photo courtesy Pastor Nigel Rosenzweig.