Located behind the church and across the creek bed, The Labyrinth is dedicated to the memory of Becky Henderson who, together with Nathan Allen, sparked the idea. One of our members, Karen Barlow, designed the project and donated materials and some of the time of her guys from Lawns Limited to build it. Becky’s parents, Larry and Judy Walker of Valley Mills, contributed the crushed granite and plants for the landscaping.
Walking A Labyrinth
A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path.
There is no right way to walk a labyrinth. It is not a maze. You cannot get lost.
You only have to enter and follow the path. However, your walk can encompass a variety of attitudes. It may be joyous or somber. It might be thoughtful or prayerful. You may use it as a walking meditation.
Adults are often serious in the labyrinth. Children most often run in and out as fast as they can in a playful manner. It is ok, don’t try and restrain them!
When you walk a labyrinth choose your attitude. From time to time choose a different attitude. Make it serious, prayerful, or playful. Play music or sing. Pray out loud. Walk alone and with a crowd. Notice the sky. Listen to the sounds. Most of all pay attention to your experience.
Some general guidelines for walking a labyrinth are:
Focus: Pause and wait at the entrance. Become quiet and centered. Give acknowledgement through a bow, nod, or other gesture and then enter.
Experience: Walk purposefully. Observe the process. When you reach the center stay there and focus several moments. Leave when it seems appropriate. Be attentive on the way out.
Exit: Turn and face the entrance. Give an acknowledgement of ending, such as “Amen.”
Reflect: After walking the labyrinth reflect back on your experience.
Lake Shore Baptist Church wants community to experience labyrinth, peace garden
Julie Engebretson, Waco Today, p. 56
May 29, 2014
If you’ve ever passed the side of Lake Shore Baptist Church, driving north on Meadow Road, you may have wondered about the maze-like formation and the adjacent, shaded seating area off to your left. These are the Lake Shore Labyrinth and the Jack and Kay Hansma Peace Garden, maintained by the church and designated for quiet meditation and prayer.
“We really want to get the word out that anyone in the community is welcome to enjoy the peace garden and the labyrinth,” said Sandy Londos, a Lake Shore Baptist Church member and part of the task force responsible for maintaining the Peace Garden. “You can just park along Meadow Road or even in the church parking lot to access them.”
It is possible to mistake these spaces behind Lake Shore Baptist Church for private property, or possibly areas for use by Mountainview Elementary nearby. And while these are meant for use and enjoyment by the public, they are intended as sacred spaces, and should be treated with the utmost respect, church members say.
“A sacred space is really any space in which someone can experience the presence of God,” said the Rev. Sharlande Sledge, associate pastor at Lakeshore Baptist Church. “It’s the intention behind the space — its intended use — that makes it sacred.”
The church maintains the Lake Shore Prayer Labyrinth, designed for the purpose of private meditation and reflection by walking the circular path. Not to be confused with a maze, the labyrinth features a clear route to its center and back out again.
“It’s definitely not a maze,” said Marie Allen, a Lake Shore Baptist Church member who is part of the task force dedicated to maintaining the labyrinth. “You won’t get lost. That’s not its purpose.”
Literature available at the entrance states, “You only have to enter and follow the path. However, your walk can encompass a variety of attitudes. It may be joyous or somber. It might be thoughtful or prayerful. You may use it as a walking meditation.”
Sledge said she has heard much positive feedback from community members who have walked the path, gaining some clarity or peace in the process.
“I have even heard from one gentleman who had avoided church for decades,” she said. “He claims the labyrinth was a path back to the church.”
Created in 2003, the labyrinth was first conceived by Becky Henderson, a deacon at Lake Shore Baptist Church and a hospice nurse. She helped design the project with elderly and handicapped visitors in mind. Thus, the path to the center is wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair comfortably.
Henderson died unexpectedly the same year the labyrinth was finished, and the church dedicated it in her memory.
Over the years, however, the space slowly fell into disrepair at the hands of weeds, wind and other elements. When it was dedicated, there was never a formal maintenance plan in place.
“I didn’t know Becky since I only moved to Waco with my mother in 2010,” Allen said. “But, I was also a nurse for 35 years. I was also taking care of my mother from the time we moved here and started attending the church to the time she passed away a year ago.”
Feeling an inexplicable connection to fellow nurse Henderson, and bearing great grief at the loss of her mother, Allen decided to volunteer in the effort to restore the labyrinth last fall.
“I worked out my grief in the earth,” Allen said. “And last November, a crew with Baylor Steppin’ Out’ came and helped in a big way.”
Fully restored to its original beauty, the labyrinth was rededicated in April and is open for public use.
Inspired by the Quakers’ “quietist” tradition of silent worship, the first iteration of the Peace Garden was completed in 1993. Adjacent to the labyrinth, today the area offers seating in the form of benches and chairs arranged in an intimate circle, shaded by several mature trees. At the head of the circle stands a Peace Pole — a monument featuring the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” inscribed in several languages.
“We have seven translations of the prayer here, including English,” Londos said. “Other churches in the Waco area all voted on which languages to include.”
The tradition of the peace pole originated in Japan in the mid-1950s, and by the early 1980s, peace poles began appearing in other parts of the world. Often, they are erected in response to a specific conflict, or act of hate that has been perpetrated. The Peace Pole at the Jack and Kay Hansma Peace Garden does not stand in answer to any single event; however, it has offered comfort to many in the wake of personal tragedy and also following such violent events as the Branch Davidian siege of 1993, and the 9/11 terror attacks.
“The Peace Pole is easy to miss because it’s integrated with the surroundings — it’s wood,” Allen said. “The inscriptions were initially written on paper and protected under Plexiglas. Eventually, following some vandalism, a local artist named Reuben Paul Salazar carved the current prayers directly into the wood.”
The Hansmas, after whom the peace garden was renamed in 1996, three years after its initial creation, were beloved Lake Shore Baptist Church members and tireless activists for peace and justice. Jack died Dec. 5, 2001. at the age of 83; his wife followed him nearly a year later on Nov. 13, 2002.
“When I think of the Hansmas, I think of the adage, ‘Live simply so that others may simply live,’ ” Sledge said. “They lived that way — very modestly. They lived as true Christians, loving their neighbors.”
Over the years, the Hansmas gave away more than $1 million to various charities that supported peace and justice near and far, such as Baptist Peace Fellowship, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Amnesty International, Bread for the World and World Hunger Farm, to name a few.
“Kay used to hand-write every check so that she could pray for that organization as she wrote the check,” Sledge added. “Their fingerprints are on the peace garden and all over the church as a whole.”