February 20, 2020
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Why a Maine church, land trust are walking circles in the woods

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Members of First Parish Church UCC in Brunswick and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust will gather Saturday afternoon on wooded trails at Crystal Spring Farm to dedicate The Labyrinth in the Woods, a 50-foot diameter circle of granite paving stones open to the public for meditation, prayer and interacting with nature.

The labyrinth, set just off Crystal Spring Farm’s Garden Trail and near the Tom Settlemire Community Garden, was envisioned by Susan Fitzgerald, a longtime member of both organizations, and First Parish Church Rev. Mary Baard, Baard said Monday.

Fitzgerald, who died in January, founded First Parish Church’s labyrinth ministry and helped coordinate the canvas labyrinth arranged in the church six times each year. She and Baard had discussed possible sites for an outdoor labyrinth, but found no space on the small church property.

Meanwhile, land trust leaders sought ways to build connections with various community groups.

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust offered the space and First Parish Church raised funds for the project, including continual upkeep. The congregation also committed to providing labyrinth tenders to guide groups or individuals through the experience.

“At that point we knew Susan was ill, and we wanted to build it in honor of her,” Baard said. “We raised the money through the church to build it in honor of Susan.”

When a basic labyrinth was completed in November, a small group gathered there with Fitzgerald to bless the space, which Baard said was “a very special and tender time for all of us.”

Labyrinths are common in a number of religions dating back thousands of years. They offer a single path winding back and forth within the bounds of a circle, ultimately leading to the center. According to the church, many labyrinth walkers find following that path to the center “stills the mind and opens the heart.”

The seven-circuit labyrinth is open to the public, and Baard said it is designed for “spiritual meditation practice” instead of focused on any particular religion or tradition.

“From what I’ve been told, it’s getting a lot of use already,” Baard said.

Saturday’s grand opening will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. In case of rain, the event will take place Sunday afternoon.


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