October 24, 2016

Power of Spiritual Practices

"Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." Many Episcopalians strive to accomplish that with each use of our beloved liturgy. We enliven the treasured words with beautiful music that inspires us to, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!"

In between our soaring Sunday worship services, how is your congregation helping people become familiar with Individual spiritual practices designed to draw us closer in relationship to our triune God? The power of these practices was discovered hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years ago.

One spiritual practice rising in popularity while remaining a mystery to many of us, even if our own faith community has one, is the labyrinth. My parish (Trinity Episcopal in Fort Wayne, Indiana), recently hosted a workshop presented through Veriditas, a not-for-profit organization “dedicated to introducing people to the healing, meditative powers of the labyrinth.”

Veriditas Master Teacher Kay Mutert invited workshop participants to experience a labyrinth as "a sacred space set aside for you to reflect, look within, pray, negotiate new behavior."

A labyrinth is not a puzzle or maze. Its ancient design helps focus prayer and ideas as you simply walk, think and, as the old hymn goes, have "a little talk with Jesus." The labyrinth allows both mind and body to relax in rhythm with the path's winding segments. When the turns give way to longer stretches, memories of spiritual drought might surface, or you may feel refreshed as the journey seems suddenly joyful and freeing.

Kay Mutert encourages that when you reach the center of the labyrinth, it can be a time to receive. What is your labyrinth walk opening to you about the winding turns of your life, your dreams, your priorities? Whatever God has opened your mind and heart to receive, take it. Sit down if you'd like. Rest in the embrace of the encounter. When you are ready, return on the same path, perhaps calmer now, or excited as you continue to process what you have received. The return itself can hold energy and possibility for you. Be open to all the experiences of the walk.

The Veriditas website offers a selection of resources to help people understand and benefit from labyrinth experiences. Episcopalians might particularly enjoy the book In A Labyrinth Year, Richard Kautz, which “guides readers on a labyrinth pilgrimage that winds through the seasons of the liturgical year with devotions (to be used while walking the labyrinth) based on the thoughts and emotions of biblical characters whose stories are recalled in the seasonal scripture readings.” (Explanation from Church Publishing.)

The labyrinth is just one form of spiritual practice. Your priest or a Spiritual Director can share many others with you. Each allows a way to experience God through Word or Spirit. The discipline of using these practices invites deeper faith and closer relationship with God.

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