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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Walking the Labyrinth at Grace

by Bradly Baird (bio)

On a recent visit to San Francisco, I visited the Nob Hill neighborhood and participated in morning prayer at one of my favorite American churches, Grace Cathedral. Grace is widely known throughout the world as the home of a most progressive and innovative Episcopal congregation that is deeply committed to the community in San Francisco. The cathedral sanctuary also contains remarkable art, including an AIDS memorial altar - a distinctive piece of iconography - designed by the late artist, Keith Haring

I entered the sanctuary quietly, moved toward the central altar, turned right, and found my way to the Chapel of the Nativity. I sat just outside the chapel entrance with three members of the congregation and listened attentively as a Deacon of the cathedral performed readings from the Old and New Testament, including a most interesting reading from the Book of Joshua.

At the conclusion of this short spiritual service, I moved toward the center of the sanctuary, just behind the pews for the congregation and stood in front of a large labyrinth cut into the stone floor. This impressive work stands about fifty feet in diameter and its configuration models the classical seven circuit labyrinth (meaning that you walk seven complete circles before reaching its center).

As I walked towards its entrance, I noticed a small sign that contained instructions. In addition to explaining possible modes of prayer, the sign informed me that I might wish to remove my shoes at the entrance and walk barefoot, thereby enhancing the experience. I thought this a terrific idea and sat on a stone stair just in front of the labyrinth, placing my shoes at the path's origin.

I stood up, calmed myself for a moment, and carefully followed the pathway. The effect of walking the circuits centered my thoughts and while walking, I took the opportunity to converse with my Heavenly Father. I felt the Spirit flow through me as I repented of my mistakes, expressed gratitude, and discussed my life. The whole experience lasted about twenty minutes or so and when finished, I restored my shoes to their proper place and left the cathedral to enjoy the rest of my day in the city.

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