Prayer labyrinth dedicated as a campus sacred space

The Hesston College prayer labyrinth, was completed this fall after several years of dreaming and planning.

Hesston College and the local community now have a new place to go for quiet contemplation or prayer with the completion of Hesston College’s prayer labyrinth.

With candles lighting the path, the labyrinth was dedicated Oct. 30. Bible and ministry faculty member Michele Hershberger led participants through the labyrinth in prayer while local musician Ben Regier set the mood with guitar and mandolin music.

“The labyrinth provides a place to let go of resentments, worries and emotional hurts while walking towards the center of the labyrinth and then to receive God’s love and peace while walking away from the center,” said Hershberger.

Sophomore Maria Diener walks the college's new prayer labyrinth.
Sophomore Maria Diener walks the college’s new prayer labyrinth.

Prayer labyrinths offer a way of praying that brings a person’s whole body into the prayer. Individuals walk toward the center of the labyrinth and back out – a physical action that serves as a reminder of the spiritual action they are taking.

“Our physical bodies and spiritual beings are interconnected,” said Clay Stauffer, Hesston College exercise science faculty and labyrinth committee member. “The labyrinth, with its walking and praying, activates this interconnectedness.”

The idea for a prayer labyrinth on the Hesston College campus started in 2002 when former physical education instructor Jen LeFevre returned from a sabbatical where she experienced a prayer labyrinth and thought it would fit well with campus values. LeFevre taught a physical education class called prayer walking where students walked around the campus and town focusing on contemplation, meditation and prayer.

By chance, at a meeting of Hesston College Partners, LeFevre was approached and given a donation that became seed money to build a labyrinth. Over the years, LeFevre and students in the recreational leadership class also channeled proceeds from the annual class-organized Thanksgiving Weekend Howard Hustle Two-mile Run/Walk for the project as well.

As funds were raised, a committee of faculty and staff including Hershberger, LeFevre, Stauffer, physical education instructor and women’s soccer coach Bryan Kehr, Campus Facilities Director Jim Mason and psychology instructor Kevin Wilder was formed to manage the planning and construction.

In 2013, the committee found materials at a reasonable rate to finally begin the process of constructing a campus labyrinth. In the spring of 2014, the location behind Northlawn was selected and construction took place in September during the college’s First-year Experience Service Week. First-year Experience students and the Hesston College women’s soccer team built the labyrinth under the supervision of Miller Construction, owned by Hesston graduate Jordan Miller.

The committee chose a variation of the Santa Rosa labyrinth design. The design is a seven-circuit labyrinth divided into four quadrants including a unique space called the “heart space,” which is an area not walked but serving as a sacred vessel for holding symbols of an individual’s issues, needs or celebrations.

The Hesston College prayer labyrinth is open for the college community, local residents and visitors to use at any time.

“We hope that this labyrinth will be a sacred space to be used for prayer by the college community and the larger Hesston community,” said Kehr.