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Emerging Church in Modern Reformation

Labyrinths and Navigable Worship

Tim Challies has a old post called Experience The Labyrinth: (Insert New Age Music Here) which is getting some new life in the comments section - some think its a Satanic tool, and others who think its a great way of praying with focus - its an interesting discussion.

Labyrinth-Tm-1Many ministries and websites that are anti-emergent have a problem with Labyrinths -Lighthouse Trails, EmegentNo, Steven Muse. But others are using them in an old school way or reinterpreted as a multi-media journey of of worship. (Labyrinth.co.uk) This is a BIG point of contention and I don't think we will get any resolution here.

Challies asked for some biblical foundation for the idea (not easy for ANY current worship practise) so I left a comment way down the bottom at 74, part of which says this. . .

A labyrinth is simply a "line in the ground" (Mark Pierson's definition). It is a way of creating a journey of motion with points to stop and pray, read, think or act in worship. I have visited Chartes and am not really impressed with the middle age style labyrinth. But a journey of prayer and worship that engages the mind and body - thats different . . that sounds like my own devotional times when i go for a walk and pray over what I see - or when I am involved in a prayer walk around a city.

I find many examples of this kind of worship (some of us call it "navigable") used in the Old Testament. The Feast of Tabernacles had many journeys of motion that the worshippers used to participate in - from one gate to another gate, holding citrons and sticks . . The Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134) were used in (well - there is some disagreement here . .. but either they were read out as worshippers ascended the steps of the Temple, or along the journey/pilgrimage to Jerusalem . . . or maybe both)
Jesus also participated in the yearly pilgrimages to the Festivals, and during his long walks with his disciples, he would often stop in his journey to interact with a fig tree or look at something.

Adding motion to worship is unusual for Protestants who normally see worship as something static that you watch on a stage, rather than having to leave your seat and interact with. But the next generation are far more participatory - and their worship often looks more Old Testament than 20th Century.

I think the emerging church needs to be clear how labyrinth based worship or "navigable worship" is NOT new age, or mindless meditation. And if the word "labyrinth" or "multi media labyrinth" brings up so many misconceptions, then the emerging church needs to ask itself if it is worth fighting for the term, or if it should be abandoned

[My comment finishes but I want to say more here]

I created my first 'labyrinth' in 1992 in Australia - but we didn't call it that - there was no name for it. I took my youth group through Kings Park praying at all the points of interest, each prayer connected with the context. It was great and many of the kids went back on occasion to pray through it again.

At a Baptist camp in California, where I was speaking a few years ago, the young people created an incredible sequence of worship experiences that stretched across the campus, each station demanding interaction and response with Scripture and props. One bad smelling station was designed to make you think about sin and the smell was so bad that one kid threw up. The "labyrinth" finished up in the chapel, where i was waiting for them to finish off the experience with worship and prayer. If the worship had been design by "older people" then the young people would have probably been sitting on a seat the whole time, looking toward a stage. But when you give them freedom to express their worship their way, motion and interaction are normally integrated.

 Tallskinnykiwi Images Bible-Shower
This image is one room of many that made up a labyrinthian journey (we called it a "learning trail") on the internet one night last year. | could mention other navigable journeys of worship that young people have designed, including my own kids.

Anyway, nuff said for one post. Navigability is here to stay, one room to another, one space to another, one station to another. If you find other parallels in the Scriptures, let me know. But I bring up this challenge again:

I think the emerging church needs to be clear how labyrinth based worship or "navigable worship" is NOT new age, or mindless meditation.

Any ideas how to communicate this better? Should Emerging Church lose the name or is that cutting out a part of church history that should stay with us?