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Walking Together In Circles

Recently, I was the Roman Catholic Observer at a meeting of leaders of the Anglican and Lutheran Churches. As I wanted to prepare my reflections from my prayer, I spent some time walking the Labyrinth of the Spirituality Centre where we had gathered. I surrendered to this prayer, and I offer the following observations. I realized that the labyrinth might be a perfect metaphor for what we do as we build Relational Ecumenism.

I remembered that the labyrinth is an alternative to pilgrimage from the medieval times. Much of life is a pilgrimage, a journey, a walking together along the way. That’s what we do as we work ecumenically, we walk together.

I remembered that the classical labyrinth is carved in stone in Chartres Cathedral and the one that I was on was a replica of that one. That reminds me that we can take a good idea and translate it into another. Even though it is medieval and in France, it can still be useful here. Maybe my ecumenical partner has something that I could use to follow the gospel better.

I remembered that the labyrinth, like the journey of life, is not logical. There are not many long straight stretches. They all come to an end – often as soon as you think you just got started. Like life, some short stretches bring us to turn to the right when we think that we should be turning to the left and left when we think we should be turning right. There are times to turn when we are not ready to do so, but if we are going to follow the path laid out by someone else (like maybe Jesus), we have to accept these quick turns. Sometimes we even seem to be doubling back on our path. Isn’t this the struggle of building local ecumenical relationships?

I remembered that the journey of life often brings us closer to our destination, only to make us turn away from it - for now. We could break the rules, step over the boundaries, take a shortcut but how much of the journey will we miss when we do that? Maybe our zeal to accomplish something ecumenically causes us to overstep our bounds or try to hurry it along a little bit when we really should just take the time and build the relationships.

I remembered that the way to the purpose is also the way away from it. Once we reach our intended purpose, we have to go back to reality. Once we achieve our spiritual goal, we have to return to the outside to the rest of our world. Every time that we have a successful event, we ask: “what’s next?”

I remembered that the goal was to arrive at the centre. I saw that the centre had many parts but make up one whole. Isn’t that the truth of our ecumenical journey? Many parts make up one whole. I saw that the centre brings me to think about direction. I saw that the very private inside made me connect to the greater world outside. Introversion and extroversion together. Arriving at the centre brings both a sense of relief and accomplishment but also an urgency to return to the outside. Isn’t that the purpose of our prayer and our gatherings? To be sent out into the world and to live our faith.

I remembered that even when we seem to go round and round, we arrive at our destinations. It is not fruitless. It is worth the effort. Umh…

I remembered that this labyrinth that I chose to make my journey and my pilgrimage made me realize that the Lord speaks to me in weird ways, at weird times, for weird reasons and not always about what I want to talk. Building the relationships that lead to local ecumenical events is worth it! Get lost on the pilgrimage. Keep walking in circles. Keep building ecumenical relationships. Keep bringing the church to become one.

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