The City Labyrinth

A Lenten Invitation

You’re invited to something different this Lenten season. Many of you may be accustomed to giving something up during the season of Lent. Perhaps you give up a food you usually indulge in, like chocolate, or perhaps you challenge yourself to give up a habit you’d like to discontinue, at least for a period of reflection or self-discipline. This Lent, instead of “giving something up,” First Christian invites you to take
something on during this lenten season: The Spiritual Discipline of traveling what we’re calling “The City Labyrinth”

What is a Labyrinth?

A labyrinth is a single continuous path that leads to the center and out again. Though they might look like a maze, they aren’t filled with traps and dead ends like mazes. Labyrinths are an ancient design that appeared in many cultures for thousands of years, but in Christian usage, the faithful could walk a labyrinth as a symbol of pilgrimage, often symbolizing a journey to the Holy Land. A Labyrinth walk also used as an act of more inward reflection or repentance for sins. The penitent might walk it on their knees. Labyrinths are still found in many Gothic cathedrals throughout Europe.

Today, there is no set ritual for traveling a labyrinth, but there are books and lectures to assist you in performing a labyrinth walk. Generally, you are invited to enter the labyrinth slowly, calming and clearing your mind. This may be done by repeating a prayer or chant. Those who walk labyrinths are invited to quiet their senses and focus on the process of taking slow and deliberate steps, while contemplating a prayer or spiritual question during the walk to the center. 1

For several weeks, we invited you to submit locations throughout the city that you considered “your favorite places,” “places that made you anxious or fearful,” “places that worry you” and “places that you’ve never visited, but want to.” We’ve compiled lists of those places and mapped them out. Over
the Lenten season, you’re invited to visit some of those places during your week, exploring one site from each category. We’ve provided questions, a reading from Psalms, and a prayer for each week’s journey—in order to help you make this a truly spiritual journey. Be Creative! Perhaps you can pick four spots that are walkable and explore them on a Saturday afternoon. Perhaps you can map out places that are further apart and bring back the old tradition of “taking a Sunday drive,” while giving it a spiritual, contemplative spin.

Ancient Christianity was a religion of the City. It grew in the major towns across the Roman Empire, and its first communities lived out their faith in urban contexts. Likewise, much of our outreach work is in response to needs and issues that emerge in contemporary urban contexts: homelessness and food insecurity have particular dynamics in urban areas that are different from how these issues play out in rural areas; cities like Chattanooga are chosen for refugee resettlement because of the proximity of social services, and churches like our own have to consider questions that face others who live in a city—especially one changing as rapidly as Chattanooga.

So How Do I do This?

Each week, choose four locations, one from each category:

places map key
  • You can choose these locations by reviewing the interactive map above or by selecting them from the list located in the Narthex.
  • Before you visit the sites, spend some time reading the Psalm for the week.
  • While you are in each location, consider the four questions provided for you.
  • After you visit the final site, read or recite the prayer provided, or a prayer of your own.
  • If you journal, consider writing about your experience of contemplative exploration. How does this journey through the “City Labyrinth” make you feel? What does it make you think about?
  • Consider gathering with friends, or the members of your Covenant Group, to discuss what you’re thinking and feeling.
  • While you are in each location, consider the four questions provided for you.
  • After you visit the final site, read or recite the prayer provided, or a prayer of your own.
  • If you journal, consider writing about your experience of contemplative exploration. How does this journey through the “City Labyrinth” make you feel? What does it make you think about
  • Consider gathering with friends, or the members of your Covenant Group, to discuss what you’re thinking and feeling.

Week 1: March 10

Read The Weekly Psalm: Psalm 91:9-16

Visit Four Places:

A Place We Love
A Place That Makes Us Anxious
A Place We Worry About
A Place We Haven’t Yet Visited

Consider the questions:

What is it that makes me feel the way I feel about these places?
Is there something beautiful about these places that I’ve missed?
Is there something that has kept me from visiting this place before now? What is it?
What is your hope for the places you’ve visited?

Closing Prayer:

Holy One
As I wander through this city that I call my home
as I come across undiscovered nooks and newly-found neighborhoods,
as I revisit the places I love,
Remind me how easy it is to be tempted to forget that these
places are all filled with life—
with people who love, who struggle,
who long for connection, and to know their value.
Remind me of the ways that Jesus was tempted
and how he chose to live among humanity,
experiencing us in the fullness of our joy,
the deepness of our grief,
and our broken beauty,
over these 40 Days of Lent.
Hear my prayer.
Amen.

Read The Weekly Psalm: Psalm 27

Visit Four Places:

A Place We Love
A Place That Makes Us Anxious
A Place We Worry About
A Place We Haven’t Yet Visited

Consider the questions:

Do I know anyone who lives nearby? If not, why not?
What sort of needs (material, spiritual community-based, or otherwise) exist in each of these places?
Do I know of faith-based organizations or secular non-profits that are doing good work in these places?
What is the best thing about each of these places?

Closing Prayer:

God
who casts out fears
and brings healing
to the broken
Give me wisdom and
teach me to discern
the things that I have
to contribute to the
healing of these neighborhoods
and give me the courage
to listen to the things I
need to learn from these neighborhoods.
Teach me to be open and unafraid
like Jesus was. Show me the path of Discipleship
through this labyrinth.
Amen.

Read The Weekly Psalm: Psalm 63:1-8

Visit Four Places:

A Place We Love
A Place That Makes Us Anxious
A Place We Worry About
A Place We Haven’t Yet Visited

Consider the questions:

What are stories you have heard or told about the areas you’ve visited this week? Remember or share one.
What are these stories meant to teach or communicate?
What do you believe about those stories?
Have you ever exaggerated a story to make a point?
How might you change the story you’ve heard based on your experience in this area?

Closing Prayer:

Giver of Grace
We are grateful to be
part of your story of
a world created in love,
of a people called in love,
of a path carved out for
the sake of love. In these
40 Days, give us words
to write stories based in
the love you have for the
world. Teach us, as your
pilgrims, to turn toward
truth, and turn away from the
lies we believe about one another
and tell about ourselves. Remind us
that Jesus’s path points toward
seeing one another clearly.
Amen.

Read The Weekly Psalm: Psalm 32

Visit Four Places:

A Place We Love
A Place That Makes Us Anxious
A Place We Worry About
A Place We Haven’t Yet Visited

Consider the questions:

Do you feel out of place at any of the places you’ve visited this week?
What does it mean to welcome someone who feels out of place?
What steps do you take to create a sense of welcome?
If you could imagine a welcoming city, what would it look like?
What are some ways you can make Chattanooga a welcoming place?

Closing Prayer:

Giver of Grace
We are grateful to be
part of your story of
a world created in love,
of a people called in love,
of a path carved out for
the sake of love. In these
40 Days, give us words
to write stories based in
the love you have for the
world. Teach us, as your
pilgrims, to turn toward
truth, and turn away from the
lies we believe about one another
and tell about ourselves. Remind us
that Jesus’s path points toward
seeing one another clearly.
Amen.

Read The Weekly Psalm: Psalm 126

Visit Four Places:

A Place We Love
A Place That Makes Us Anxious
A Place We Worry About
A Place We Haven’t Yet Visited

Consider the questions:

Where do you see new life in the places you’ve visited this week?
Redemption? Resurrection?
What inspires you about what you’ve seen?
Have you discovered anything that now concerns you that didn’t beforehand?
Who would you most like to experience what you’ve seen with?

Closing Prayer:

Giver of Life,
You journey with us
through all things.
Through these 40 Days,
you stay with us, showing
us life where we only saw death,
showing us a future where we only
see the things we’d rather forget. Give
us the empathy of Christ; help us see
ways we can be bringers of life, practitioners
of resurrection in your world. Hear my prayer.
Amen.

Blessing on your 40 day lent journey

Watch This Space For More About Gathering to Talk About Your Experience Traveling the City Labyrinth.

1 adapted from www.verywellfit.com/walking-the-labyrinth-34358251