When mission informs, upgrading the floor becomes ministry
At the outset it seemed fairly routine, the high-traffic area of the parish hall needed new flooring at Grace Episcopal Church in Kirkwood. A few tiles were removed and asbestos was revealed, so abatement was added in to the project.
But, might there be a ministry opportunity here?
Their thinking was, we’ve had a number of projects that were not attended to. But here’s something we’re going to do anyway. How can we add value to this, how might we keep a promise to St. Matthew’s?
Five years ago the diminishing congregation of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Warson Woods, along with Grace, discerned they would merge. Some of the capital that St. Matthew’s brought was destined for a labyrinth in the memorial garden on Grace’s expansive grounds.
The light bulb went off. What would it be to design a labyrinth in the tiles they were already going to lay down in the hall? Unlike the maintenance of an outdoor labyrinth, could the tiles require only as much upkeep as other flooring? And, who would this indoor option open the doors for?
Their rector, Todd McDowell, shared his knowledge of labyrinths. They had discussions with the Sisters of Mercy who have a nearby outdoor labyrinth and with whom they coordinate on retreats. Contemplative Outreach, who rents space at Grace, was in on the conversation. They’re a primarily Roman Catholic inspired group focusing on prayer practices that have to do with contemplation, in the Ignatian tradition. They could do this!
The labyrinth was one of this year’s grant recipients of the New Ventures in Community Ministry funds administered by the Diocesan Council. Grace member Lyn Ballard was the primary contact for the proposal development and said the process helped their committee articulate what they were going to do, how they were going to measure participation, and how they would build spiritual practice into this project.
Because it’s indoors, people using wheelchairs and walkers, and those who would be challenged by the outdoor setting can participate. St Thomas Deaf Church has worship space at Grace and looks forward to a new kind of contemplation practice. Recently on first Sundays, Grace began offering intergenerational “messy” church with child-focused liturgy and maker-activities and leaders are beginning to imagine how the labyrinth adds to that experience.
Welcomers, partners to walk the labyrinth with the blind, prayer resources for people new to praying with the labyrinth, hosts for other groups--there are so many facets to this spiritual outreach. Grace is also gathering a library of resources on labyrinths.
The pattern uses the mathematical proportions of the familiar labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France. The tiles were made locally, in hues of pomegranate and ivory. And the result is an antidote of slowing down and settling in with deep breaths, to the anxious drive of the modern life. “You don’t have to understand it in artistic or spiritual or literary terms,” Lyn said, “you just need to feel it.”
Grace Episcopal Church Labyrinth Open Hours, Feb. 15 – March 23
- Tuesdays: Noon - 4:00 pm
- Thursdays: 6:00 - 8:00 pm
- Fridays: 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
We invite you to spend some quiet time with God during Lent at our beautiful new indoor labyrinth. The doors will be open and the hall will be quiet during these times. Thursday evenings will include candlelight and soft music with members of our labyrinth committee on hand to greet you and answer any questions you may have. Grace Church is located at 514 E. Argonne Drive in Kirkwood, 63122. gracekirkwood.org
Photos from Janis Greenbaum and Todd McDowell. A younger member enjoys the labyrinth's center; the tiles being created; a first coat of wax after the tiles were laid; blessing the labyrinth and ministry on January 28, 2018.