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By Susan Shinn
Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS ó An old method of prayer and meditation has made its way to New Hope Lutheran Church in Kannapolis.
In October, the church dedicated its prayer labyrinth. The labyrinth is open to the public the third Monday of each month. It will be open 6:30-8 p.m. Monday at the church, 1615 Brantley Road.
With their roots in Greek mythology, labyrinths have been around since the Middle Ages.
Perhaps one of the world’s most popular labyrinths is in a 12th-century Gothic cathedral in Chartres, France. The canvas labyrinth purchased by New Hope is the same pattern.
Unlike a maze, a labyrinth contains one path to the center and back again. There are no dead ends and no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. They can be made of many different materials, including stone, grass or gravel, or carved into a floor.
If they choose, visitors can pick up a card before walking the labyrinth. They can contemplate such words as patience, remembering, responsibility, forgiveness, meditation.
You can walk at your own pace and stop whenever you like during the labyrinth journey.
Trained docents set up the labyrinth in the center of the church’s family life center. The lights are dimmed and candles lit, with background music creating a prayerful, contemplative atmosphere.For those unable to walk the labyrinth, there is a lap-held finger labyrinth available.
The church’s pastor, the Rev. Kim Trabold, started talking about the idea of a labyrinth shortly after she came to the church a year ago.
“It’s an aid to our prayer life and our spirituality,” Trabold says. “It’s new to many people. For those who have the experience and find it helpful, they want to do it more and more.”
That could be said of the labyrinth’s docents. The congregation has six trained docents who assist visitors.
“Most of us had never heard of a labyrinth,” says Betty Stanwick. She and husband John are docents. “But we boned up on it, and we thought it was a nice idea.”
The power of prayer, Stanwick says, is great. So much so, that when Trabold said she had been praying for docents, the couple stepped forward.
“It just sounded like something we should do,” Stanwick says.
Walking the labyrinth, she says, “You reach inside yourself. It depends on what you’re feeling when you walk it. You have to clear your mind of distractions and hear what is spoken to you.”
Sometimes, she says, you’re giving thanks. Other times, you’re seeking solace.
“I have had a great deal of back problems,” says Stanwick, who had surgery a year ago. “There have been many times that walking that path has helped my healing.”
“You’re working through whatever your thoughts and prayers are,” says docent Erna Brown. “It gives you a chance to think. It lets you become very dedicated to what you’re thinking about.”
She adds, “The intent is to slow down, to watch your breathing. You’re supposed to come away with a peaceful feeling.”
The labyrinth is open for groups by appointment.
“Our circle is going to come in May and that’s going to be our program,” Brown says.
Brown hopes that different groups in the congregation will use the labyrinth and become more familiar with it.
Trabold says that while some members love it, others are still getting used to the idea.
As with any new thing, she says, “It just takes time and exposure.”
Docent Jean Sloop is definitely a proponent of the labyrinth.
“When you do it, it feels like it’s right, really right,” she says.
“It forces you to slow down and take stock of what you’re doing,” Brown says.
When you reach the middle, you can write down thoughts on a sheet of paper and place them in a basket. Those papers are then disposed of.
“You bring your trouble and write it down and leave it here,” Brown says.
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New Hope Lutheran Church is located at 1615 Brantley Road, off Lane Street, in Kannapolis.
If your group would like to make an appointment to visit the labyrinth, call the church office at 704-932-3716.
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Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or sshinn@salisburypost.com.

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