Like many people who attend Goshen College, Jen Shenk was unaware of the labyrinth on the northeast side of the Yoder Dorms. It wasn’t until she started working with the college last spring that she realized it existed.“I didn’t even know that Goshen College had a labyrinth until I started working as a Campus Pastor and saw some old brochures in a drawer!” she said. “I was super excited to find out that we had a labyrinth right here on our campus property, since it’s been such a meaningful part of my own spiritual growth.”
When Shenk went out to investigate said labyrinth, she noticed that it had fallen into a bit of disrepair. With this discovery, she reached out to Craig Johnson, head of physical plant to come in and spruce it up a bit. With the help of Johnson, Campus Ministries student leaders and some willing helping hands, the labyrinth is looking much more inviting than it has in several years.
Campus Ministries student leader Kate Bodiker commented that the process of revamping the labyrinth was “just as meditative as actually walking [it].” The silence during the work accompanied by the occasional door opening or the wind rustling the trees made for a pleasant, centering experience. Bodiker continued saying, “it’s fitting that we redid the labyrinth this year since our theme for Campus Ministries is ‘Walking Together.’”
For Shenk, labyrinths have been a useful tool for meditation and connecting herself to the earth and the Divine.
“For me, walking a labyrinth is a powerful experience. I can give myself over to the process, and the physical act of putting one foot in front of the other, winding around and eventually making my way to the center feels like a metaphor for whatever burden I’m carrying. My spiritual journey hasn’t been a linear path, and I don’t think life is either, for that matter.”
Shenk hopes that the labyrinth will see more engagement in the future and will be used by individuals and groups to “decompress … meditate and encourage solitude.”
Anna Groff, professor of communication, has already taken advantage of the newly redone labyrinth. Earlier this year she took her Academic Voice class out and encouraged them to walk the labyrinth in silence. After they returned to class, they wrote a descriptive paragraph about their time walking the labyrinth.
“A lot of them talked about the peacefulness, the sunshine, the temperature, the muddiness and the way that felt underneath their feet,” she said. “I think I will take classes out there in the future. I have been thinking about other ways to use it for prewriting and other centering exercises.”
“The only job of the [person] walking the labyrinth is to just keep walking, knowing eventually you will reach the center,” Shenk said. “In a labyrinth, you cannot make a wrong turn. There are no dead ends. You will never be lost.”