The Cloud and the Labyrinth
By Maureen Lucas (St Peter's Milford CT)
I was recently at a retreat in the woods, having met up with another church who wanted to partner up to camp out on a farm. Together as part of our service there we built a labyrinth together. Made of stone salvaged from an old wall, it sat in a clearing, down a small hill, surrounded by trees. It’s a spot very close to camp yet secluded enough for quiet contemplation and prayer. When it was completed, we each had the opportunity to walk it if we chose. Afterward, we went on with our weekend; moving firewood, picking blueberries, playing with animals, watching fireworks, and making smores. In planning the final night of worship, we leaders (two priests and two youth ministers) realized we didn’t exactly know the direction it should take. We had brought together two separate
churches for a few very active days so vastly different from what we were used to, and we were tired and our senses were full. And God was up to something…
One of the young adults from our church who graduated last year asked me if she could take the lead in conversation with the young people. She noticed they seemed to feel awkward about the labyrinth, and she felt they might be more open about it in conversation with her leading rather than with us older folks. She planned the conversation and ran thoughts and ideas by me, wanting to make sure she was
on a good, healthy path. We talked about expectation and uncertainty, about trusting God in the process, and about when to call out for our help. She was very clearly being called to this. Trusting God to guide her, the trip leaders helped make this experience happen by placing lanterns along the path leading to the labyrinth and battery powered candles along its gentle curves. Then, after we opened together with prayer in the woodland chapel, she led them down to the labyrinth. While they were in conversation we held them close in prayer, feeling the power of a moment in which God was in charge through the faith of this young woman and the young people trusting her to guide them.
When they returned to the chapel area, the reflections they shared from their time together were powerful and deeply moving; born of a shared experience both of time away on the farm and the shared culture of young people in this world. They were able to grow clarity in that safe space alongside someone closer to their own age, while we older folks with more experience prayed nearby in case we were needed.
Hebrews 11 lays out name after name, lists story after story of human struggle and God’s faithfulness in bringing them through it. It’s a list of the great cloud of witnesses who came before us, showing us the story of our faith. Because the Bible was written so long ago, it can be easy sometimes to feel as if that is only history, this great cloud of witnesses. This experience on retreat reminded me that when we live in community, when we trust God, and when we help others grow faith of their own, we are still adding to its number.