St. Paul’s Labyrinth - Our Story

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church received the gift of a Chartres style brick labyrinth which was placed next to the church in October. This labyrinth is the culmination of eight years of planning and preparation which fulfills the dreams of many parishioners. On Sunday October 23rd the labyrinth was dedicated to the Glory of God and in memory of Rosemarie (Rory) Woischke.

All Put-in-Bay residents are invited to one of three “Open House” events to learn about labyrinths and to experience walking the one at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. The open houses will take place on Thursday Nov 3rd – 9 am; Sunday Nov 6th at 1 pm, and Wednesday Nov 9th at 1:30 pm. Each open House will include a short explanation of labyrinths and an opportunity to walk the path which is sometimes called a Jerusalem mile.

The vision of a peaceful garden at St. Paul's which developed into this labyrinth came from Rory Woischke. In 2003, six months before her death, she was impressed when she visited the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. As she walked the peaceful space, she shared in the experience of walking the path that has been shared by countless people across the globe. Her feet followed the path into the center and back out again. As she walked with her daughter Valerie and her son-in-law Joe they all began to imagine what it would be like to share this experience of centered reflection with St. Paul’s at Put-in-Bay.

Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools. They are an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. There are changes in direction but no dead ends because it is not a maze.

After Rory’s death in 2004, some of her friends and family made contributions to a memorial fund in her honor. This provided the “seed money” to explore establishing a memorial garden at St. Paul’s. The vision of a peaceful garden space and possibly a labyrinth at St. Paul’s was shared with the vestry and later, the members. This vision was nurtured by the parish of St. Paul’s as various they learned about various designs including the Chartres design which is also found at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, which Rory had discovered during a visit there. The contributions made to Rory’s memorial fund along with a bequest from her daughter and son-in-law, Valerie and Joe Chornyak, were instrumental in the final steps required to place the labyrinth at St. Paul’s.

A labyrinth is a metaphor for life's journey. It is a symbol that creates a sacred space where we can reflect on our own life experience. A labyrinth is a right brain task which invites reflection, intuition, creativity, and imagery. With a labyrinth there is only one choice to be made. The choice is to enter or not. We each make a choice on whether or not to walk a spiritual path. Those who do, may return with a broadened understanding of who they are.

In the fall of 2010, various labyrinth designs were placed on St. Paul's lawn grass using soccer field paint so the placement and orientation could be visualized more clearly. Adults walked the path, children explored the mystery of the winding path and the vision grew. Finally, the design and site selection were approved by St. Paul’s vestry. St Paul’s also explored the possibility of blending a low columbarium or internment garden next to the labyrinth but found that it is not possible at this time.

In mid-October of 2011 the incredibly hardworking landscaping staff of “A Proper Garden” from Delaware, Ohio prepared the ground for the labyrinth which would be laid out using pavers. They removed large stones and at times it was like pulling the molars from a dinosaur’s jaw. Their work paid off. St. Paul's also thanks Miller Boatline for helping deliver the materials and Fox Stone for their assistance. Local residents wondered about all the activity as the work continued for almost two weeks. As the final bricks were put into place, it was clear what a beautiful and lasting gift this will be.

St. Paul's invites churches from across Ohio and other groups seeking a place for spitirual retreat and contemplation to vist the labyrinth. The church, with all the beauty of South Bass Island, is a perfect place for day retreats.

St. Paul's welcomes donations for future landscaping which will be added around the labyrinth in 2012-2015 as the Church celebrates several key dates in parish history leading up to the 150th Anniversary of the first service held in the church in October 2015.