WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — During January of 2005, several dozen members of the Williams College community helped to create a replica of the 13th century labyrinth inscribed on the floor of Chartres Cathedral — on a 36-foot-square expanse of portable canvas.
Since then, several times each academic year, for several days at a time, the labyrinth is spread out and available free of charge to the whole community for many kinds of meditative use. This month it will be available during Holy Week, Monday through Saturday, April 14-19, in the Fellowship Hall of the First Congregational Church – an ideal reflective counterpoint to the escalating pace of this hectic season.
The hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with special candle-lit evening hours on Maundy Thursday, April 17, until 9 p.m.
The labyrinth is an ancient device for walking meditation. Though perhaps the most familiar version is the one at Chartes, it has pre-Christian roots in many cultures, and people have been following the path to the center of its beautiful convoluted design for countless centuries. The practice of walking the labyrinth has connections to many kinds of spirituality and can be enjoyed by people of all faiths as well as by those who feel no affiliation with any organized religion.
The labyrinth looks like a maze — but you can’t get lost! The complex path becomes, for many, an apt metaphor for all kinds of journeys; despite unexpected twists and turns, it always leads faithfully to the center, and then always back out again. There is no right or wrong way to use the labyrinth, and for most people no two walks are alike. A gentle, reflective walk to the center and back out again takes about 20 to 30 minutes – though it’s possible to stretch the journey longer, or to linger in the center.
Walkers are asked only to remove their shoes to protect the canvas. Printed leaflets with suggestions on how to structure a walk, as well as several of the many books published on labyrinth walking as a spiritual exercise, are available.
The First Congregational Church is located at 906 Main St.