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Scranton church's Labyrinth quiets minds, restores spirits

Karen Fogley walks along Covenant Presbyterian Church's labyrinth. They ask people to take off their shoes — partly to keep it clean but also for grounding. Cell phones should be off while you quietly walk along the path.
Aimee Dilger
/
WVIA News
Karen Fogley walks along Covenant Presbyterian Church's labyrinth. They ask people to take off their shoes — partly to keep it clean but also for grounding. Cell phones should be off while you quietly walk along the path.

A labyrinth is not a maze.

“I read somewhere that a maze is designed to confuse you and a labyrinth is designed to help you find your way," said Karen Fogley. She’s a parishioner at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Scranton. And helps manage the church's labyrinth. "So the whole purpose is just to quiet your mind, let all of the dinging phones and the mental lists of things to do just kind of fall away. And just walk."

Once or twice each month, the church on Madison Avenue lays out its canvas eleven-circuit labyrinth. It’s available weekly during Advent and Lent.

Circuits are the number of times the path passes between the center and the outside edge. White Christmas lights and battery-powered candles circle the labyrinth in the church’s Sawtelle Auditorium. Calm music plays while people find their way to the middle. That’s where it's believed that walkers are closest to the center of their spirit and will find greater insight.

"There's no way of getting lost on the labyrinth," said Wendy Belaski. She also helps with the labyrinth. "You just follow the path ... to the center. Breathe. And then you walk your way back out. And it's very meditative.”

Walkers retrace the pattern to find their way to the exit.

In the late 90s, the then-pastor of Covenant visited Chartres Cathedral in France. The church was built in 1205. A limestone labyrinth is built into the church’s nave. Around the same time, an Episcopal pastor in San Francisco began a labyrinth movement in the country.

"Many canvas labyrinths were created ... that were exact replicas of the pattern in the floor of the cathedral," said Fogley.

Covenant purchased the canvas labyrinth in honor of one of the church's late parishioners.

During the open labyrinth hours anyone can stop by and walk the path — you don’t have to be a member of the church or even religious. They also open it up to groups and host special events with live musicians while people walk.

"It's kind of like the concept, if you build it, they will come. Just the word has gotten out by word of mouth, people tell their friends," said Fogley. "Several people who have come to those events have become regular walkers.”

Professors from the University of Scranton have brought their students to the labyrinth before finals.

“I remember one young woman in particular said 'by the time I was in the middle, my mind was just empty' and that seemed to be a good thing," she said.

There’s no right way to walk the labyrinth.

"Just one foot in front of the other. That's all it is," said Belaski.

It’s okay to pass people on the path.

"It's just like life, sometimes people are ahead of you. And sometimes they're walking right next to you," she said.

Fogley said people have profound experiences in the labyrinth.

"It seems to really help people who are grieving because it helps them bring feelings that maybe they've been pushing down to the surface," she said. "Sometimes people get weepy, but in a good way. It helps them process what's going on with them after a loss."

Wendy remembered one walk during All Saints and All Souls Day.

"A lady came up to us and said, 'I love that you put those twinkling lights around the labyrinth. When I was walking, I was thinking of all the souls that I've been that I've lived, that I've known and that have died. It's like everyone is surrounding me, and I feel very loved in this labyrinth',” she said.

Dawn Talley is a regular walker. She teaches at the University of Scranton and is a chaplain at Geisinger Community Medical Center.

Her average pace is around 20 minutes to walk the labyrinth. But it's taken her anywhere from an hour to 10 minutes. It depends on what’s going on in her life.

Ten years ago, Talley was working through an intense situation. She used the labyrinth as a tool for prayer and meditation.

“I'm a deacon in the Lutheran Church, so it helps with my ministry," she said. "But personally, it's helped me with healing. I spent about a couple of years healing with this."

There’s a quote attributed to St. Augustine that Fogley and Belaski love.

"It's a Latin phrase, 'solvitur ambulando,' which means it is solved by walking. And that just sums it up," said Fogley.

“It's always been said that the labyrinth comes out and reinvents itself when there is social turmoil, social and emotional turmoil, and well, that that's right now," Belaski added.

If you can’t physically walk the labyrinth, the church has a smaller version you can trace with your finger.

The Labyrinth is open today from noon to 4 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; July 16 and 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and July 18 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and August 13 and 14 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and August 15 form 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The church is located at 550 Madison Ave., Scranton.

For more details, visit https://www.covenantscranton.org/home

A visitors log, a labyrinth that can be traced by hand and details about the labyrinth are greet walkers outside the Sawtelle Auditorium at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Scranton.
Aimee Dilger
/
WVIA News
A visitors log, a labyrinth that can be traced by hand and details about the labyrinth are greet walkers outside the Sawtelle Auditorium at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Scranton.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.

You can email Kat at katbolus@wvia.org