Labyrinths, which came into their own in the Middle Ages, are now attracting more attention in the metro area, possibly due to the need for peace and tranquility amid busy lifestyles, a local religious leader said.
The Rev. Susan Joplin, canon at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, 127 NW 7, and the cathedral recently hosted “The Day of the Labyrinth,” focusing on the “pattern with a purpose.”
The Aug. 17 event, based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, was designed as an introduction to labyrinths, Joplin said.
The event included a guided labyrinth walk featuring an 11-circuit portable labyrinth made of canvas. She said the portable labyrinth was made in the Chartres-style, featuring probably the most well-known labyrinth pattern that is on the nave floor of the Chartres Cathedral in northern France.
“Of the 65 people who participated, about half of them were walking the labyrinth for the first time, which was great,” she said.
Attendees also walked an outdoor four-circuit labyrinth created three years ago in the east garden of St. Paul's.
Joplin, a certified labyrinth walk facilitator, said labyrinths are not new.
“It has been used by Christians for many, many years, coming into its own in the Middle Ages,” she said. When it became too dangerous to attempt the spiritual journey to Jerusalem during the Crusades, Christians created labyrinth cathedrals where they could take symbolic walks along a sacred path, Joplin said.
“These pilgrims could take their journeys in a safe place,” she said.
Joplin said there are other labyrinths in the metro area, including one at Mercy Health Center and one that will be dedicated soon at a local university. First United Methodist Church of Edmond hosts a monthly labyrinth walk. Joplin said she is working on a project to create a labyrinth at the planned Oklahoma City YWCA facility.
“They're popping up everywhere,” she said.
Reasons vary for the renewed interest in labyrinths, she said.
“It could be that we have enormous pressures these days and our attention span has been broken up into bite-size pieces that can lead to a disconnect within us. We are bombarded with images that distract us, but the labyrinth is a prayer tool that can help us to create that inner sanctuary, a place where we can be ourselves and slow things down,” Joplin said.
Joyce Gibb, a member of St. Paul's who has had a longtime interest in labyrinths, agreed.
“We're seeing more and more labyrinths as our society becomes more and more frantic,” Gibb said. “People are living in sound bites, and they are looking for some kind of peace and quiet. You find that in the labyrinth.”