World Labyrinth Day was celebrated last Saturday, May 7th. Perhaps you missed it. Mother’s Day grabbed all the attention that weekend, not surprisingly. But it was also Astronomy Day, Herb Day, and Free Comic Book Day (thanks Wikipedia). Missed those too, eh? Maybe next year.
There were 150 official observances of World Labyrinth Day, in 15 countries and 31 states in the USA. One of those events took place in Independence, Missouri, on the rooftop plaza at the Community of Christ Temple. It coincided with the Daily Prayer for Peace, which has taken place every day at the temple since its dedication in 1993.
This particular labyrinth (pictured above) was installed just a few years ago and was patterned after the well-known one at Chartres Cathedral in France. I suppose if you’re going to create a labyrinth, you might as well use the example many folks considered the best. Be that as it may, the mere fact there’s a labyrinth at all at this location signifies a pretty remarkable transformation in the practices of Community of Christ (known before 2001 as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or more simply, RLDS Church). Walking the labyrinth is one of many spiritual practices, listed on the church’s website (this may require downloading a free app depending on how you view it).
- Prayer of Examen
- Lectio Divina
- Centering Prayer
- Holy Attention
- Circles of Blessing
- Holding in the Light
- Breath Prayer
- Gospel Contemplation
- Prophetic Imagination
- Welcoming Prayer
- Lenten Practices
Many of those sound quite intriguing. Keep in mind, of course, that the list is not exhaustive. Nor does it mean that the only way to seek a spiritual path is by using any particular practice or discipline. These and other practices are not an end unto themselves, of course; their purpose is to connect us with the Divine.
Let me just say at the outset, too: I grew up in the RLDS Church, beginning in the 1950s, and I wasn’t exposed to any of those things. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Why? Well, mainly because back then spiritual practices were things done by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopalians, and maybe Lutherans. As well, non-Christian religions had their own (sometimes similar) spiritual practices. And we prided ourselves on being different, if downright peculiar. Besides, we latter-day saints, regardless of which branch we’re part of, are generally more “doers” than “be-ers.” And spiritual practices, although they may involve rituals, are decidedly in the “be-er” camp. The ideal is to find your own balance somewhere between spiritual practice and social action.
But if you know anything about the past six or seven decades of the Community of Christ/RLDS Church, you’re probably aware there’s been a lot of changes in regard to identity, theology, and practice. It certainly hasn’t been a smooth ride. For example, a huge chunk of conservative/traditionalist members left beginning in the 1980s. Ordaining women to the priesthood was their breaking point but hardly the only issue.
My point here is not to rehearse all that history. Let’s do that some other time and just focus here on spiritual practices. It’s been a gradual yet continual shift and certainly far from complete. These practices still feel foreign to many CofC members, especially us older ones. For example, I’ve never actually walked a labyrinth and sometimes wonder why people don’t just bump into one another as they’re walking in toward the center and then back outward. Maybe they do. Probably limiting the number of people walking at any one time is the simple solution to that. I’m open to trying a labyrinth walk, along with other spiritual practices and disciplines.
My own spiritual practices usually involve reading and writing. After I took early retirement as an editor at CofC international headquarters (where I was transferred after considerable time with the church’s publishing division, Herald Publishing House, at a separate location), I started writing a weekly blog based on the Revised Common Lectionary (something else we RLDS folks never used to bother with back in the day; now practically all our congregations use it for worship planning). That lasted for nine years, or three complete cycles of the three-year lectionary. During that time I also wrote and published a couple books (one on Apostle Paul and the other on how OT prophets can help us become a prophetic people). From time to time I show up here on Wheat & Tares to comment and post reflections.
For the last few years I’ve begun each day by reading Father Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations, which arrive in my email in-box. Those daily readings have, in turn, exposed me to the writings of not only classical mystics such as St. John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, John Duns Scotus, and so many others, but also contemporary spirituality writers. My congregation has been an encouraging place for social and community involvement. Everybody’s situation is different, of course.
The Community of Christ website explains that there’s three parts to walking a labyrinth: release—walking inward; receive—at the center; and return—walking outward. I can see how that works. It’s not unlike sitting inside the temple sanctuary right next door to the labyrinth, looking up into the ceiling which spirals upward until it reaches its center point, then spirals back down. Theologically, the message is to be drawn toward the Divine and then outward to the world.
The recent Labyrinth Day event was sponsored by the Center for Living Water, a relatively new program at church headquarters to promote spiritual growth. The center’s skeleton staff and numerous volunteers include a good many young adults, something that gives me some hope for the future of a church with an aging membership base. Although it’s taken about three decades to establish such an entity, I can foresee this becoming a major aspect of ministry connected with the Community of Christ Temple.
Most of you reading this post are connected in some way with the Latter-day Saint (or Restoration) movement. My guess is that many of you are tilted toward that “doer” category I mentioned above.. And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with that! But have you ever wanted, or even tried, to experience a “be-er” practice? For example, can you imagine the possibility of constructing a labyrinth outside an LDS temple? If nothing else, I suppose, it would offer a nice distraction to “non-recommend worthy members”and nonmembers waiting outside for a temple marriage ceremony to be completed inside.
- Which of the listed spiritual practices are most attractive to you?
- Which spiritual voices speak most clearly to you?
- How do you engage in your spiritual journey?
- Where do you stand between the poles of “being” and “doing”?