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In Seattle, a labyrinth of prayer for the end of the year

In Seattle, a labyrinth of prayer for the end of the year

St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, has for 15 years celebrated New Year’s Eve by clearing its sanctuary, moving the pews, dimming the lights, bringing in music and spreading out a 40-foot canvas labyrinth:

And then from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., people will arrive in everything from New Year’s Eve formal wear to sweatpants and sneakers, all with the same intention: peace.

A columnist in the Seattle Times wrote about the experience:

The walking meditation of following a single path toward a center, then out, dates back to ancient Greece; and the labyrinth at St. Mark’s is fashioned after the one built at France’s Chartes cathedral in 1201…

…There are no formal studies linking labyrinths to mental health, but devotees believe more people are drawn to them as technology advances. It makes sense; The faster we communicate, process and post in our lives, the more harried our minds become.

“We’re in informational overload,” said Dan Niven, who has put down two labyrinths, in gaffer tape, on the floor of St. Mark’s, and will set up another with electric candles. “It’s no surprise that we use this to decompress and figure out our priorities.

“It’s a tool for mindfulness. It surpasses any doctrine.”

The experience ends a half hour past midnight, with communion:

At St. Mark’s, the six-hour Labyrinth Walk is accompanied by chamber music, lit by candlelight, and features a burn bowl where people can write down their troubles, light them on fire, toss them in and forget. At midnight, there’s a Eucharist to mark the start of the new year.

Read the story here.


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Ted Thomas Martin

I think Boston’s St. Paul’s Cathedral did a fine job on their renovation; they ripped those boxy, anti-social, creaky pews out for good; the new floor also having a Labyrinth Walk , cathedral chairs AND a ramp to the high altar, new lifts and new chapel……ceiling skylights too. I was very disappointed in Miami’s Trinity Cathedral for doing none of that, their high altar is still not easily accessible for the elderly etc.

David Allen

Our cathedral is still a work in progress after 80+ years of strange history. St Mark’s Seattle is nicknamed the God Box, or to some the Holy Box, because of its square-shaped interior. I believe that the building is slated for a complete replastering of the interior soon.

And perhaps chairs are in its future. Another well-known Seattle church, Plymouth UCC, was recently remodeled and gave up pews for chairs.

Jack Fradgan

“…There are no formal studies linking labyrinths to mental health”

Marshall Scott

In fact there are many studies that show a correlation between practices of spiritual discipline, including mindfulness but also other practices of prayer and meditation, and stress reduction, reduced symptoms of depression, reduced anxiety, and also physical problems that affect wellness. If interested, I can direct to respectable resources.

Shirley O'Shea

But there are many that show a positive correlation between mindfulness practices and relief from depression and other psych disorders.

Ted Thomas Martin

Are there studies that show they hurt it?

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