Good memories and new friendships weren’t the only outcomes of the University Singers’ interterm concert tour. In her essay the Rev. Nancy Brink, director of church relations, reflects on an experience there that touched hearts and souls.
On a free afternoon of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on the Chapman University Singers’ Texas Choir Tour, we headed for Houston’s Museum District. Art, natural history, Holocaust, Japanese garden—there were so many options!
But I added another possibility to the mix. I had just learned that St. Paul’s United Methodist Church had an outdoor labyrinth, a full sized replica of the one in 12th century Chartres cathedral in France. We exited the bus and started getting into different groups. What surprised me is that about a third of the choir wanted to walk the labyrinth with me.
No one is completely sure why a number of Europe’s 12th century cathedrals put labyrinths in their floors, but there is a worldwide revival building these meditative paths. Some years back I got to study at Chartres and learned how to facilitate using the labyrinth for prayer.
I gave them a few minutes of introduction and then spaced them out so they would not be bunched together on the path. All was quiet as each one began their inward journey.
That is when I noticed him—a distinguished looking black man was watching us from the sidewalk. He approached and walked around the labyrinth several times before joining us.
A labyrinth is a continuous winding path that leads to center and back out again. One by one we exited and the students sat quietly nearby until we had all gathered. We took some time sharing our experiences and when he exited, I invited the stranger to join us. He told us his story. He is from Trinidad and the next day he was beginning cancer treatment at the nearby M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital. He thanked us for being there for he wouldn’t have found the labyrinth on his own. He appreciated being with us in silent contemplation. I encouraged him to come back again during the long days ahead, for labyrinths are very healing. He thanked us kindly and walked on.
All week long I have prayed for his healing, even as my own soul has been calmed and fed over and over by spectacular concerts. St. Augustine once said, “One who sings, prays twice.” But I know it truly—we have prayed three times.
(Image source: St. Paul’s United Methodist Church Houston)