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Pandemic Stress Relief – The Labyrinth

Kerrie Kleppin-Winn
August 19 2020

In the midst of a pandemic, any activity that relieves a little stress is a welcome distraction.   First Central Congregational United Church of Christ offers the ultimate COVID-era activity.

“It was and remains the first labyrinth in the state for public use,” notes Daryl Malena, long time church member and man in charge of the revitalization of the church’s unique outdoor feature.

A labyrinth, sometimes known as a ‘meandering path’, historically dates back over 4,000 years. The one in the Blackstone District, however, has only been around about 20 years. “The design we have chosen this time is an exact size replica of the one on the floor of the cathedral at Chartes, just outside of Paris,” Malena continues.

“If you are looking for a safe, socially distanced way to meditate and clear your mind, our labyrinth is the perfect place,” declares Senior Pastor, Dr. Rev. Scott Jones.  People tend to walk through them for many reasons – mediation, prayer, simply to relax or unwind.  “Many of the neighborhood kids use it as an incredibly fun place to ride their bikes!” Jones says and smiles.  “Who knew it would become such an important outlet for the pandemic?”

The church found itself in need of some patio re-surfacing repairs this spring, which meant that the labyrinth’s life was in jeopardy.  As the repairs took shape, Eagle Scout and church member, Elliott Mitchell met with church leadership to seek approval to make the labyrinth and the rest of the aesthetic features of the patio his Eagle Scout project.  And a beautiful, cross-generational, partnership was born.

“Daryl has worked on every iteration of our labyrinth over the years, and lots of church folks immediately wanted to volunteer to help. Elliott and The Scouts brought in volunteers, and all of a sudden there was this incredibly diverse group of volunteers working together – safely socially distanced – to make our patio a must-see stop in the neighborhood,” concludes Rev. Jones.  “We are so thrilled to be able to provide this type of experience to the community.”

Final details of the project will be wrapping up in the next few weeks, but the patio – and the labyrinth -is still open and available to the public.

For additional details on how the labyrinth pattern was created (there is no big stencil – it all has to be calculated and then carefully drawn before painting), or it’s history in the neighborhood over the years, as well as images of this project, and a time-lapse video of the work, can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/FirstCentralCongregationalChurch/