I am writing this as the school term comes to an end. We, as a church, were privileged to welcome Knightlow School’s current year 6 class to All Saints church for a ‘retreat day’ last week. The retreat day is an opportunity for the class to have a day away from school to reflect on their 7 years at primary school, to capture the good things and maybe put down the not so good things, then to look forward to the new challenges that secondary school might bring. We use a large labyrinth as the focus of the day. A labyrinth is a great tool for spiritual reflection. Unlike a maze, you can’t get lost in a labyrinth. There is only one path for the journey, a journey that you can let go and just trust that you will make it to the centre. It has a central space to take a moment to pause, take a breath and then when ready, to retrace the circuitous steps out of the labyrinth. There has been some interesting research about walking labyrinths that suggest that the process of walking requires us to use both sides of our brains at the same time. This is in opposition to our usual ‘one sided brain preference’. The suggestion is that walking the labyrinth allows us to think in a slightly different way than our default practice, and out of that may come new and interesting reflections. But most importantly, walking the labyrinth is fun!
Most of us are used to the rhythm of the school year even if we don’t have children or grandchildren at school. We were all brought up, through our school days, to measure our lives in school terms, to segment the year into 3 semesters rather than 12 months.
The church too, has a way of dividing up the year according to our great festivals. The time after Pentecost (6 weeks after Easter) and before Advent (4 weeks before Christmas) we call ‘ordinary time’. It is a time for reflection on the commemoration of Jesus’ death and resurrection at Easter and to look forward to the coming of God into our world as a human baby at Christmas. In some of the resources I use, ‘ordinary time’ is described as the ‘great green growing weeks’. A period of both reflection and anticipation where our faith can deepen and grow and our relationship with God deepen and strengthen.
In both these times of reflection and anticipation we need guidance. I am a trained labyrinth facilitator, so I can help the children understand the process of walking the labyrinth but I also had a team of adults who helped on the day. Just as in our church life, I may be the vicar but there are lots of different people who can help us in our journey with God. There are books to read or websites to visit and places to share our experiences but whether it is exploring a labyrinth or our journey with God, we do all need times to reflect and times to anticipate what comes next.
So my hope and prayer for you this summer, is that you will have a ‘great green growing time’, whatever that means to you. That you will have the time and space to stop and reflect on what has been and what is to come. But most of all to have some time to enjoy yourself and have some fun!
Instead of a prayer this month, this is an image of a labyrinth known as a Chartres labyrinth, after the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral. The labyrinth at Chartres is over 42 feet in diameter and thought to have been built in the first decades of the 13th century, pilgrims have been travelling to Chartes to walk the labyrinth ever since. You might want to follow the path of the labyrinth with your finger or maybe a pencil, perhaps praying as you go.
If you would like some help or guidance or just to talk about your journey this summer, please do not hesitate to get in touch.