Theory:

Intro | Relationship | Journey | Letting Go | Centering | Incarnation | Transformation | The Labyrinth, Postmodernity and Ritual
Text © Kevin & Ana Draper, Steve Collins, Jonny Baker 2000

Journey

Mike Riddell's book 'Godzone' provides an excellent outline of the concept of faith and relationship with God as a journey. In recent years missiologists have begun to embrace the theme of journey as being particularly helpful in understanding conversion. The metaphor of pilgrimage has come to serve as a timely reminder and a 'control' to another metaphor - that of the 'two kingdoms'. Some elements of the Church have tended to emphasise that you are either 'in' or 'out' of the Kingdom of God, often on the basis of affiliation to church (and in some more arrogant cases, to a particular denomination). In the history of Israel and in the preaching of Jesus we see evidence of both metaphors. In rediscovering the idea of pilgrimage - of being on a spiritual journey - we owe much to the postmodern emphasis on process. So, we can view salvation as more of a process than a one-off event in our lives.

This means simply that we acknowledge the reality that, for most people, becoming a Christian is a process which is occasionally punctuated by moments of crisis. Such observations affect not only the shape of our approach to mission but also our worship. This is no aimless or meaningless wandering that we are on: we have a goal, of a restored relationship with God. Many of us can look back on moments in our lives, even before we may have called ourselves 'Christian', when we were being drawn Godward by the Holy Spirit. We were already on a pilgrimage toward God. Often such moments occur in the context of Christian worship. Similarly, many of us brought up in 'Christian homes' may remember years and years of Sunday schools and youth groups before we made any kind of explicit 'commitment to Christ'.

Incorporating the theme of journey within our missiology allows for a more creative and dialectic approach. We can recognise that we are all on this spiritual journey together - and just as different people are at different places on the labyrinth so we are at different places in our spiritual journey. Consequently we do not have to allow a separatist mentality to permeate our attitude towards others. The labyrinth involves a physical journey or walk which reflects an inner or spiritual journey which we all make. It is equally appropriate to all, whatever stage of the journey we might find ourselves on. The labyrinth gives us the space to explore the highs and lows of our journeys and our relationships with God, each other, ourselves and creation and to commit ourselves to journey onward.

The labyrinth is gentle and non-coercive. it is not ostensibly an evangelistic tool - though people have been known to say that they have 'found faith' while walking it. It is designed to be responsive to individual needs - wherever people are in their spiritual journey it encourages them to open up to God for healing and change. For people without Christian faith or with tenuous or uncertain belief, the labyrinth provides an unthreatening entry to a potential encounter with God and to ideas of God's love, grace, forgiveness, creativity etc. However it is also true to say that committed and experienced Christians can use the labyrinth to explore deeper. For the committed this is a place of prayer, a ritual, a discipline, a self-examination before God and a place of re-commitment to God. Furthermore the labyrinth actually helps to deconstruct the notion that once we have become a Christians we have 'arrived' - rather it can inspire each of us to journey onwards a little more.

Thus the labyrinth as a worship experience allows us all to literally walk in solidarity with one another recognising that we are committed to journey onwards in our relationships. Long-established Christians, and those exploring the Christian faith, and lapsed followers can all walk together. As we walk the labyrinth together we not only move closer to God in our relationship with Him but we also move closer in our understanding of one another and in our relationships.

The labyrinth allows for a personal encounter with God. We have control of the pace of travel and the depth to which we commit ourselves. We have the choice of whether to take part in each activity, and how far to go. So we can feel safe, and that sense of safety allows us to open up without fear - open up to God, and to our own inner processes. Nobody is forced or obliged to respond in a particular way. The labyrinth offers the freedom to choose - to choose to change, or not to change - such freedom can bring about much deeper and more lasting effects on our relationships.

Clearly the nature of the journey around the labyrinth will be unique to each person, reflecting their own personality, life history and spiritual state. There are no standard or expected responses or 'results'. Rather we trust God who knows what's happening in people's hearts and lives, and we trust the Holy Spirit to interact with each person. Remember that some people may not find the labyrinth helpful (generally we have found that only a very small percentage find it a negative experience), or it might provoke a reaction that only bears fruit at some future time in their lives. It would probably be helpful if you try to ensure that you do not compromise the sense of safety, freedom and privacy as we believe this is one of the real strengths of the labyrinth.

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