A few weeks ago, we had a day-long retreat at Mt. Calvary Episcopal Church in Camp Hill, right across the river from where we reside (thank you Mt. Calvary for the use of your beautiful space)!
I had planned a few activities for the day, and one of them was a labyrinth activity. Mt. Calvary has a beautiful labyrinth outside that is open to the community and close to a lovely park.
Labyrinths are a spiritual practice that have been used by Christians and other faith traditions for centuries. They are often circular, winding patterns that have been built into many of the famous Cathedrals in Europe, and today can be found in or around many churches in North America. They are different from mazes in that they have one path in and out, and no tricks or false turns.
As I pulled up to the church, I realized that, due to the recent snowfall, the labyrinth was mostly covered. I was a bit disappointed as it seemed my planned activity would have to be adjusted. But as our retreat began, I gave an option to participants to stay warm indoors and journal, color, and reflect, or to brave the cold and snow and try the labyrinth. I decided I myself would attempt the outside activity, along with a few others. So I bundled up and ventured outside. As I approached the labyrinth, I noticed that our group was not the first to walk it in the snow. There were footsteps of those who had gone before us. I realized that those footsteps helped to guide me onto the spiral path. It was hard to see the larger vision of where I was going, but if I took a few steps, I could see the next few steps as well. This pattern started to feel a little familiar, like…I don’t know, life?
Before I knew it, I had made it to the center. I saw the birds flying above, the blue sky, sled tracks and dog tracks along with the people tracks.
I thought about how I have often had times in my life where my long term goals were unclear, where I came to a fork in the road, and only by taking the next step onto one path or another, could I see the way before me. I love how my Quaker friend (and fellow service year housemate) describes this process: “Way opens,” she says.
Each time this year, as we interview folks for the next year, I wonder what our group will turn out to be like, and there is a mix of nervousness and excitement on the parts of the interviewers and interviewees. It is inspiring to interview young adults, many of them finishing college or in a transition time where the way before them feels unclear. They are drawn to the Episcopal Service Corps for a variety of reasons, but all of them come to us because they want to learn, serve, and take part in changing the world for the better. Each year, they take a leap of faith and sign up for one of the ESC programs, not knowing what the year will hold.
I walked the path of the labyrinth back to the beginning, now retracing my own footsteps along with the other fellow pilgrims who had gone before. I prayed for our current group of Sycamore House members, who are halfway through their year and already starting to think about what’s next. I prayed for our past groups (14 years in all!), and for the ones that would come after.
May we continue to take steps of faith, deepening our self- knowledge, while bringing ourselves closer to God and to others.
-Program Director, Micalagh Moritz