This story would be nothing more than a little amusing, if not for the fact that this wasn’t just an everyday walk, but a journey on one of the neighborhood labyrinth’s that our church-in-formation has started practicing. These were something my wife and co-pastor Rebecca created, as we talked with those around us about what it would look like to begin spiritual practice that is focused on our neighborhood. Rebecca had inspiration for this idea for the neighborhood labyrinth walk after reading a children’s book to some kids in our neighborhood. The story she was reading was about talking an older dog for a walk, and how the person walking the dog was forced to slow down because the dog couldn’t move as fast as it once did. But in slowing down, the dog’s owner was able to notice things they had not noticed before in their neighborhood. Rebecca loved the idea of slowing down on a walk, for the purpose of seeing, listening, and noticing things we may have missed in our neighborhood.
So there I was. Annoyed at our dog. For causing me to slow down, which is one of the main purposes of the walk I was on. An act that mirrored the very story this spiritual practice was inspired by. The reality of that hit me not long after the walk was finished.
You see, I am not always good at slowing down. At taking the time during a busy week to take a deep breath and truly listen to my neighborhood. To see what God is up to in unexpected places. To see beauty in my community that I might otherwise miss. To notice pain and injustice that I might have overlooked.
It is so easy for me to let that spiritual practice of listening become simply another task to accomplish. Something that needs to be done in pursuit of something else. A means to an end. Rather than a way of life. A practice that helps me live out the gospel of God’s love and justice in our world.
Labyrinths have traditionally been a place where one could slow down. Where one could re-center themselves on the sacred. Labyrinths are by their very nature a spiritual practice in not taking the most efficient path, but rather seeing that the journey to the center can be long and winding. They are also a place to slow down our minds and to listen. To the Spirit. To the sacred.
As our community continues to practice these neighborhood labyrinths, I pray that I might build into my life a rhythm of listening and being present in the physical space in which I dwell, Bayside neighborhood in Everett. I want to see our church-in-formation not simply survive, but be a presence of love and justice in our community, seeking the good of our neighborhood.
And slowing down and listening is a good place to start.
*We will be walking these Neighborhood Labyrinths every month, in each of the five neighborhoods in North Everett. Come and join us! Here is the next one coming up.