How a churchyard labyrinth revealed a surprising discovery about prayer habits

Published on: 11th July 2023

St Dubricius church and Labyrinth

At St Dubricius church, which is part of the Wye Reaches benefice, removing a 180-year-old tree from the churchyard created a perfect space for a stone labyrinth.


Created in the summer of 2022 for an arts and crafts exhibition, the vicar, Revd Tim Starling kept intending to tidy up the stone labyrinth until he noticed that it was still being used.


“I originally created the labyrinth as something that would be artistically in keeping with the look and feel of the exhibition we held in the church. I wanted to help visitors engage spiritually when they visit the church and grounds.


“I’ve always been fascinated by the spiritual connection between prayer and labyrinths. During my curacy, I studied labyrinths and even taught a session for Years 5 and 6 in the local Church of England primary school and was amazed by their experience.”


The history of using them, praying and walking them dates to early Christian records. Unlike a maze, the labyrinth has no tricks. A ‘typical’ labyrinth experience involves simply walking from the outer edge, following the single path to the centre, and spending time in the centre before returning along the same pathway back to the edge.


Visitors to St Dubricius church often leave a comment in the visitor book about the experience of walking the labyrinth:


‘I have followed the path in the labyrinth to help me pray.’


‘Yesterday I needed to find peace. I came here and walked around it twice. I left feeling calm.’


I walked the path yesterday evening when I thought no one was around. I needed to find peace.


It took me a long time to feel calm. I walked around twice. The second time I felt there was someone there to guide me.


I didn’t come into the church to pray, but I felt that I was moved by the Spirit as I walked the labyrinth path.


Tim adds: “We have lots of tourists visiting churches in this area as we are right on the river Wye, close to Symonds Yatt.  I am always looking for ways for visitors to engage with the building and setting. I hope the peace it brings will help them connect with God in various ways.


“The many comments we receive are deeply encouraging. The labyrinth is clearly helping them to make a spiritual connection, so we intend to keep it.


Tim and the Wye Reaches Benefice team continue looking for further opportunities to create outdoor prayer spaces. They are currently exploring another idea this time for Christmas, building a Christmas prayer shed for the community at Wyesham church.


He explains: “The idea [of the prayer shed at Wyesham] is to create a visual metaphor for the stable where Mary gave birth to Jesus. We want to give people a calming space to step away from the business of Christmas and rediscover a glimmer of hope.”


The benefice team are praying for a bit of early Christmas goodwill. They are seeking a kind benefactor who might be willing to donate a shed and help to bring the prayer shed idea to life.

If you are looking for fresh prayer ideas, visit the Diocesan Year of Prayer page, which includes resources and ideas to help your church. There are a number of diocesan-led Year of Prayer events taking place during the autumn, at which we hope to inspire and encourage even more prayer.

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