In Seattle, a labyrinth of prayer for the end of the year

St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, has for 15 years celebrated New Year’s Eve by clearing its sanctuary, moving the pews, dimming the lights, bringing in music and spreading out a 40-foot canvas labyrinth:

And then from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., people will arrive in everything from New Year’s Eve formal wear to sweatpants and sneakers, all with the same intention: peace.

A columnist in the Seattle Times wrote about the experience:

The walking meditation of following a single path toward a center, then out, dates back to ancient Greece; and the labyrinth at St. Mark’s is fashioned after the one built at France’s Chartes cathedral in 1201…

…There are no formal studies linking labyrinths to mental health, but devotees believe more people are drawn to them as technology advances. It makes sense; The faster we communicate, process and post in our lives, the more harried our minds become.

“We’re in informational overload,” said Dan Niven, who has put down two labyrinths, in gaffer tape, on the floor of St. Mark’s, and will set up another with electric candles. “It’s no surprise that we use this to decompress and figure out our priorities.

“It’s a tool for mindfulness. It surpasses any doctrine.”

The experience ends a half hour past midnight, with communion:

At St. Mark’s, the six-hour Labyrinth Walk is accompanied by chamber music, lit by candlelight, and features a burn bowl where people can write down their troubles, light them on fire, toss them in and forget. At midnight, there’s a Eucharist to mark the start of the new year.

Read the story here.

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