It all began on a staff retreat back in the fall of 2010. As we all talked, one thing surfaced from many of us. We wanted to be more of a "praying" church. Sure - most everyone prays - or should be, you know - we are Christians!!!!. . .but as a church staff, we wanted to present more opportunities for folks to pray. . . individually or corporately. Andy assigned a small task force - Suzanne, Dave B., Julie Lynn and me (yes - me is correct - Andy did not assign I to the committee). We started meeting together and Julie Lynn and I even did a series of staff chapels on prayer. We made arrangements for Mouat Chapel to be open daily for prayer. We looked for ways to incorporate more prayer into each day.
Then in January of 2011, Suzanne took the confirmands to Lake Junaluska and they walked the prayer labyrinth as they do every year. . . and there were many God moments - by both the youth and their chaperones. One of the chaperones . . .who just happens to be a landscape architect (among other things!) said to Suzanne, "wouldn't it be nice to have a labyrinth at Trinity?" So . . .William came to our committee meeting on prayer and became a member and drew this plan for us . . . .and a dream was born. I kept hearing that line, "If you build it, they will come." :-) I came home from work that day and told Mark that if this ever came to pass, it would be the biggest "thing" that I had ever been a part of (horrible sentence construction - but you get my meaning). (of course, Mark reminded me - not bigger than having our children -no - just the biggest "thing"). I liked it and I wanted to "buy" it. Mark has always said that is one of my favorite expressions!! That was exactly how I felt the minute I saw the plans -- except it was more - "I love it - I want it"
So after looking at pretty drawings and dreaming, Julie Lynn and I made our first presentation to the administrative board. At that point, we were looking at about $75,000 . . .just a labyrinth and some landscaping. You have to understand that this area was a giant mud hole between two church buildings. Anything at all would be an improvement and we even had leaks into the building every single time it rained.
So we decided to borrow a labyrinth from Canterbury UMC . . a portable one . . and I went and picked it up and we advertised the availability and we had a lot of folks come to walk and pray . . .and it was a lovely time. We thought this would help people because some people thought a labyrinth was a maze and we wanted them to understand how to pray and walk.
Folks started to give money . . .it began to trickle in . . and we raised about $40,000. We were halfway there. We couldn't start until we had the money. But people kept asking about a columbarium. So . . . Andy asked Larry Wilson to come and be a part of our group and we also invited Rhetta and Nancy and Ann and we began to discuss and improve our plan. We even went on field trips to visit other churches in the area to see their prayer gardens and columbariums. We made notes on what we liked and we especially made notes on what we HATED!
New plans were drawn and Larry represented to the Administrative Board and finally work was begun. The garden will eventually pay for itself through the sale of the niches. So far, we have sold 50 niches. (I want one but Mark doesn't so I told Becky that she can come hang out for eternity with me in mine :-) . ..but I still need to buy one!!)
We've laughed as people have bought their niches. Some people want to be in the shade. Some people want to know about their "next door neighbors." Even though it is a sacred and holy space, we've had fun in the planning process.
And now, it is ALMOST FINISHED. Last Monday, we signed the bottom of the center stone of the labyrinth. Our names will be there for all eternity. The youth who participated in this year's Discovery weekend also signed the stone . . .and they "got it" . . .they understood that it was a BIG thing!!
Julie Lynn is not on staff anymore - she is a nanny now. Dave B. is a pastor of a new church and Rhetta couldn't be with us on Monday but we were able to get a shot of everyone else. The stone was turned right side up on the table beside me and there is a spectacular Jerusalem cross on top. Left to right - back row - Lisa, Larry, William, Andy, Josh (project manager) - front row left to right - Suzanne, Nancy and Ann
It was pouring rain on Monday but Leo was able to capture some shots through the windows of the parlor. The columbarium portion is through the gates. Each big piece (like gates, fountain, etc. has been gifted by different people in the church) There is a baptismal fount over to the left of the labyrinth and there are two iron panels that were in the small sanctuary (before it became Wesley Hall) that will be mounted on the brick.
The small black stones that fill in the "cracks" in the labyrinth are Mexican pebbles and they are coming from Florida and were not in yet as of Thursday and we are also still waiting on a truckload of boxwoods coming from Oregon (I think that is right). Each spring there will be jonquils and other bursts of color that bloom in the garden.
The base of the fountain and the baptismal fount (or should that be font?) are both from somewhere in Europe. I love being in a church where people travel all over the world and have access to purchase those kinds of things.
Imagine this section with an old set of ratty steps (really ratty) going straight down . . .nothing but dirt (which became mud when it rained) . . .maybe some pine straw spread around . . .and a couple of pitiful bushes and trees . . .that is what WAS there.
The dedication for the prayer garden is on April 14. I am so excited that there will be a new place to spend time in prayer . . .a new place to commune with God . . .a new place where we can continue to grow in God's grace. I am so humbled to have even had the teeny tiniest part of being on this committee . . .of helping to pick out the stones and the granite and the type of niches (we even had video chats/presentations with companies!!). God has been so at work through the whole process. We serve an awesome God and I am so very thankful.