Episcopal churches to participate in World Labyrinth Day

By Shireen Korkzan
Posted Apr 28, 2023

The labyrinth on the floor of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, California, is illuminated. Photo: Grace Cathedral/Diocese of California

[Episcopal News Service] In many religions, prayer beads are used as a prayer guide and tool for mediation. But instead of using prayer beads, Katie Bull prefers to walk in and out of labyrinths as a form of prayer, setting an intention before starting.

“In a labyrinth, you’re releasing what comes in as you’re walking; you’re trying to get that busy mind to go,” Bull told Episcopal News Service. “I center my prayer by giving time to God, to use me to be an instrument and a tool for your work.

“In a labyrinth, there’s one way in and one way out, and it’s a process to find yourself and connect to God,” she said.

Bull said she developed an interest in labyrinths while in college. Over time, her interest developed into a passion that led her to learn about the Labyrinth Society, a sponsor of World Labyrinth Day, which is held annually on the first Saturday in May. This year, the 15th annual World Labyrinth Day will be held on May 6. The Labyrinth Society is hosting the event in collaboration with other organizations, including Veriditas, which was founded by the Rev. Lauren Artress, an honorary canon at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, California.

On World Labyrinth Day, participants from around the world will “Walk as One at 1” by walking a labyrinth at 1 p.m. local time as a “moving mediation for world peace,” using either existing or temporarily built labyrinths. Online events and local community celebrations will also take place on or around World Labyrinth Day.

Although labyrinths and World Labyrinth Day are secular, many churches, including Episcopal churches, have permanent labyrinths installed on church grounds for parishioners to use for prayer and meditation. In the Los Angeles area alone, four Episcopal churches will serve as host sites for World Labyrinth Day, including St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church in Simi Valley, Prince of Peace Retreat Center in Woodland Hills, All Saints Church in Pasadena and St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert. In New Hope, Pennsylvania, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church will also serve as a host site on World Labyrinth Day, though its labyrinth is open to the public year-round. On May 5, Grace Cathedral will host a labyrinth activism workshop with the Legacy Labyrinth Project and Big Connection 3.0.

“Silence in community is power,” said the Rev. Michael Ruk, rector of St. Philip’s in a press release.

According to Bull, whose husband, the Rev. Julian Bull, heads Campbell Hall, an Episcopal day school in Los Angeles, walking through labyrinths became a popular outdoor activity during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic because it was easy to socially distance.

“[Labyrinth walking] became in some ways more accessible,” Bull said. “People were sitting in isolation and depression and really going through a hard time; it was traumatic for everybody … but [labyrinth walking] really helped because everybody got to see each other and socially distance.”

World Labyrinth Day will also include a research project where anyone can volunteer to participate in a study on labyrinth walking as a form of contemplative practice. The study is conducted by researchers at Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work through the Legacy Labyrinth Project and Big Connection 3.0. Public labyrinths are also easy to find online through the Labyrinth Locator, which has more than 6,000 labyrinths in its database.

-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at skorkzan@episcopalchurch.org.