The sixth annual Interfaith Labyrinth Walk for Peace in Berks County is set for Sunday, May 4 at 2:30 p.m. at Epler’s United Church of Christ in Bern Township.
The church is located at 1151 West Leesport Road, Leesport, and features the labyrinth that has helped to keep this unique and especially wholesome and healing event in the community’s new history.
In addition to the congregation of Epler’s UCC, members of the Wyomissing Church of the Brethren and Reform Congregation Oheb Sholom, both in Wyomissing, and the Islamic Center of Reading, are involved in organizing and participating in the walk.
Labyrinths are usually a large circle on the ground, often topped with decorative stone or gravel, or they can be designed over grass or soil. They involve stones or permanent lines placed in a way so that there are pathways to walk between whatever material creates the patterns.
The act of taking the time to walk slow footfalls in a labyrinth is thought to be reflective and an opportunity to come closer to peace in a way that isn’t always possible in the rushed way of most people’s lives today.
Last year, around 50 or 60 people attended. About 15 to 20 people go into the labyrinth at a time to ensure that there is enough space and room for everyone so they can better appreciate the experience individually and as a group.
Tim Speicher is the pastor of Wyomissing Church of the Brethren and also a coordinator on the planning committee for this walk.
“Faith communities don’t really cross paths often in Berks County,” Speicher explained, pointing out that this walk brings several groups of people together.
“In the culture and world as we experience it, there are so many situations of anger, ignorance, misunderstanding, misrepresentation and very uncivil ways of discussion, so it’s very important that we experience and demonstrate to others that people can work together, cooperate, walk together peacefully and have civil conversation and dialogue while treating each other with respect,” he said.
And the walk helps to accomplish that.
“We’re trying to pull out all the good qualities we have in the midst of so many poor qualities that seem to dominate our attention these days,” he added.
“It’s a wonderful space within such a small area,” Speicher said about all labyrinths but also the labyrinth at Epler’s UCC, which started 277 years ago.
This particular labyrinth is of course newer, constructed in the last 10 years, while labyrinths in general date back to at least 3,000 years ago.
“It’s good to have a focus of allowing yourself to be intentionally in a meditative spirit aside from finding time alone to sit down and be quiet for a while,” Speicher said about some of the unique benefits of walking in a labyrinth.
Plus, for those who have trouble sitting still or find it difficult, this is really an opportunity to do a walking meditation in the fresh air of the outdoors.
“Walking in is sort of a letting go, settling in,” Speicher said about how walking in a labyrinth affects emotional states. “At the center, you can sit and just reflect.”
After the walk finishes, those who attend form a closing circle.
“In the closing circle, everyone has an opportunity to give a one-word response about their experience.”
Some mention rest. Others mention peace or relaxation. And in those moments, it’s an example of people from all across our county being good to each other.
Find out more through Epler’s UCC at www.facebook.com/eplers.