Every Lenten season for about 10 years, one local church brings out a 36-foot canvas to provide a quiet reflection time for walkers.
Labyrinths have existed for thousand of years for different religions and in a variety of methods, the Rev. Kenneth E. Wagner-Pizza said. He has seen them made of stone, shrubberies and rock paths. The labyrinth at Trinity Episcopal Church, 844 W. Fourth St., was drawn and painted on a canvas.
"(The labyrinth) really is just a tool to help concentrate, let go and spend time with God," Wagner-Pizza said.
The Rev. Kenneth E. Wagner-Pizza, pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church, center; Sherri Hartshall, parish administrator; and Wagner-Pizza's son, Alex, 5, above, pause to meditate in the middle of the labyrinth in the church’s gymnasium recently.
For those with walking disabilities, a handheld version is available so people can trace the route with a special pen. Both the canvas labyrinth and the thumbnail version are replicas of the one laid in the floor of Chartres Cathedral 800 years ago.
Some individuals and couples go to the church Sunday morning, not to worship, but to walk around the path, he said.
What makes labyrinths different from mazes is that there is just one path, which represents a person's spiritual journeys.
"You turn different angles and you might feel you're close to God, but you're back out again," Wagner-Pizza said.
Every time a person enters a different circuit, the path changes 180 degrees.
While there only is one path to take, there are many different ways to face the path.
"It's not a maze," he said. "You're trying to get to the other side. There are no dead ends. God is always with us."
Some consider it like walking to the Holy Land or some other place considered holy, journeying with Mary and Joseph for Jesus' birth or traveling with Jesus and the cross.
"Lent's a traditional time to re-examine your spiritual life," Wagner-Pizza said.
The labyrinth does not get very busy, which allows for walkers to observe silently.
"People can get a lot of alone time with it," he said.
Around the outside of the labyrinth are signs with spiritual messages for guidance, such as "You never know when the last step comes around the corner, until it's upon you, so treat every step as if it were the last, make it count."
Some people walk the labyrinth for celebratory reasons, while others have more somber reasons.
"You can use it for tragedies in life," Wagner-Pizza said. "Trying to come to more comfortable terms with it. It's not giving over to God, but asking why something happened. It's discerning which path you should take on the spiritual journey."
The length of the journey also varies. People walk at different speeds, some passing others. When the walkers finally reach the center, they can spend a minute in it praying, 10 minutes or half an hour.
"There are no specific rules," Wagner-Pizza said. "Whatever gets you open and talking to God. All different ways assist us in prayer to the same God."
The labyrinth will be available in the church through Easter and possibly beyond, depending on what other activities are going on in the church.