Many of us involved in the labyrinth project have been influenced and helped by Pete Ward's work on incarnational theology. The idea is that as we care for and love others we live out Christ's love for the world. In the original 'incarnation' the Word or Logos became flesh and came to share our experience of human existence. As we journey back out of the labyrinth, carrying something of our encounter with God, we are encouraged to be God's 'incarnation' in our own lives and world.
The labyrinth is a semi-therapeutic environment - we make no apologies for this, but it is not intended to be an individualistic or purely self-gratifying experience (unlike the worst excesses of some forms of therapy). Rather the aim is to equip us to be more authentically human people and consequently relate in a more Christ-like way in all our relationships. As David Steindl-Rast has said "An individual is defined by what distinguishes it from other individuals. A person is defined by the relationship to others. We are born as individuals, but our task is to become persons, by deeper and more intricate, more highly developed relationships. There is no limit to our becoming more truly personal."
But incarnation has wider implications than the personal. We are all formed as people by the culture and times we live in, and incarnation is always incarnation into a particular time, place and culture. God in Christ was incarnate in a specific culture at a specific time, Palestine in the 1st century, and framed the gospel in ways that were drawn from that culture and which connected vividly with the real lives of the people around him. This is given to us as our example, and we are called, like every generation of Christians, to embody (and not just talk about) Christ and the gospel in ways that connect vividly with the real life of our own time and place. Sometimes, like Christ, like the New Testament church, we may be called to embody the deep truths of God in ways that renew their relevance but which at the time seem like a startling break with the inherited forms of religion. The labyrinth demonstrates this creative embodiment into contemporary culture in many ways: in the use of TVs, computers, CDs, the electronic media that are a normal part of our lives; new metaphors such as the oscilloscope line, compass and magnets; the use of contemporary non-religious language and thought-forms; the emphasis on discovery and learning rather than a lecture room model of teaching. And yet it remains anchored in the tradition.
Incarnation into a culture is no superficial thing - it is not achieved by changing the media or the words to suit the fashion. It grows out of an honest and clearsighted living in the culture of our times, in the sure confidence that the God of all times and places is at work in it, and is waiting, hoping, for people to discern the signs and join in.