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SIOUX CITY, Iowa — It’s hard to think of anything but the negative effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on us.

One Sioux City church congregation, however, found a way to turn the situation into something positive. With activities and services at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church halted because of covid-19, members figured it was a good time to make some long talked about changes, one of which could benefit all of Siouxland and beyond.

Just before Thanksgiving, a Minnesota designer finished painting a 20-foot labyrinth on the floor of the worship space inside the historic church at 1200 Douglas St.

The twisting path, a centuries-old form of walking meditation, can mean different things to many faiths, or those with no faith, said church member Sue Errick-son, a trained labyrinth facilitator who became interested in labyrinths after walking one at a retreat in Grinnell, Iowa.

“That’s the beauty of it. You can walk it with people of all different backgrounds,” Errickson said. “There does seem to be something about walking in a circle or through a path that appeals to people.”

St. Thomas hopes it will have wide appeal in Sioux City. Once the pandemic eases and the church has opened, Errickson said the labyrinth would be open regularly to the public, offering a chance for quiet prayer, meditation or healing.

Before Lisa Gidlow Moriarty and her husband, Dennis, of Stillwater, Minn., finished painting the labyrinth on the refinished floor where a few rows of pews once stood, the Rev. Patricia Johnson, a deacon at St. Thomas, posted a photo of it on the church’s Facebook page.

Comments indicated interest from Sioux City and beyond.

And not just from church members. An atheist and an agnostic she knows both said they were interested in checking it out.

“It tells me there’s a hunger for meditation, quiet yearning, whatever you want to call it,” Johnson said. “I think people are just seeking, as church membership declines, I think people’s desire for meaning is growing in many ways.”

The possibilities are endless, though the path through the labyrinth isn’t. Unlike a maze, there are no wrong turns, no dead ends. The twists and turns all lead to the center. Those walking the path need not waste mental energy figuring out which way to go, freeing their minds to think about what brought them there.

“Walk in faith, one foot in front of the other is all you need to do,” said Gidlow Moriarty, who designs indoor, outdoor and portable labyrinths for clients worldwide.

Labyrinths once were placed in prominent places in cathedrals in Europe, Gidlow Moriarty said, and the design at St. Thomas is related to a famous 800-year-old labyrinth in Chartres, France. For centuries, labyrinths have helped people get through countless crises.

Gidlow Moriarty said during times of turmoil, she sees a greater appeal and use of labyrinths.

It’s safe to call the pandemic a time of turmoil, which may explain the interest that’s been shown in the St. Thomas project.

Errickson said she envisions the church’s labyrinth as a setting for community vigils in times when residents are trying to make sense of local or national tragedies. It could also be used to soothe the pain of losing loved ones to the pandemic.

There are other possible public uses, as well as liturgical uses that the congregation will employ.

Errickson hopes people will come experience the labyrinth at St. Thomas, no matter their religious background or beliefs. Though it’s located in a church, it’s not a recruiting tool to attract new members.

Distributed by The Associated Press.

Print Headline: Sioux City church says labyrinth will be open to community

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