Words By Jan Brand
Photography by White Orchid Photography
The famous unicursal labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France, was the model for the one built by the First Christian Church of Granbury.
Since the dawn of time, men and women have longed to communicate with the creator of the world around them, using symbols to help them connect with the giver of life.
Aborigines in the remotest places on earth-built altars to something beyond themselves. To paraphrase Blaise Pascal, French mathematician and inventor of the earliest calculator, “There’s a God-shaped void in every man that only God can fill.”
Greek mythology gave birth to the labyrinth: a circular maze made of stone, designed to thwart the efforts to escape the Mighty Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull creature who lived at its center. Cretan coins displayed unicursal labyrinths as early as 430 BC. Their popularity spread to other cultures, where these circular disks made of stone showed up in Egypt and Africa, and eventually in England as the popular maze.
A maze can lead to dead ends, where walkers must retrace their steps to find their way out, but a labyrinth has only one central path that leads to the center and comes out the same way. A maze was created for entertainment, but the labyrinth was created with a metaphysical purpose.
During the Middle Ages, labyrinths became popular in European Christian churches for those who were unable to join the throngs of crusaders marching to reclaim the Holy Land. The circular path was a spiritual pilgrimage made in lieu of the three-thousand-mile trek from England to Jerusalem. After the Crusades, many sought inner peace as they followed the concentric circles to its center in hopes of finding a closer spiritual connection to God.
The famous unicursal labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France, was the model for the one built by the First Christian Church of Granbury. For more than a thousand years, pilgrims made their way to the great cathedral hoping for an answer to their needs.
The First Christian Church’s labyrinth was championed by Kathy Murray, a master gardener, who was inspired by a cloth labyrinth constructed by then youth pastor, Justin Jeter, who is now the church’s senior pastor.
The church has strong roots in West Texas soil. Built in 1873 by Addison and Randolph Clark, the same brothers who founded what is now Texas Christian University. The college was first called AddRan College, after the brothers, and was the first co-educational college in Texas. The brothers wanted a place of higher education that included Christian training. In 1889, the college formed a partnership with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), of which the First Christian Church of Granbury is affiliated.
From its beginnings, the First Christian Church has sought to make a difference in the community. Building the labyrinth for those who seek a spiritual pilgrimage of dedication or renewal, or to simply find a place of peace, was just a continuation of that desire to help others.
After walking the labyrinth, you will find two benches sitting in the middle, where you can spend time reflecting on life and God, and your purpose in the big scheme of life. The center is symbolic of the Holy City of Jerusalem. The labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey of faith.
The First Christian Church affords its members a long list of choices to become part of God’s bigger dream for them.
In addition to the labyrinth, the church has a lovely prayer garden with a pergola covered in big, plump pink roses and lush green leaves climbing its frame. Beneath this glorious display of one of God’s most beautiful creations are rows of benches where one can sit beneath this magnificence and ponder the majesty of the Creator.
Beautiful stained-glass windows line the walls of the sanctuary, designed by church member Darrell Little.
Pastor Jeter said the goal of the church is to help members feel welcome, and grow in servanthood, grace and surrender. For example, the community garden offers plots of land that a member can adopt, which are big enough for families to enjoy their own batch of fresh vegetables in season. Much of what is grown is given to a family shelter for abused women and children.
There are many interpretations of a labyrinth. For instance, Tiffany Danna, former associate pastor of First Christian Church, had committed to walk the labyrinth for Lent. When she found she would have to be out of town the last week of Lent, she looked for labyrinths in the town she was visiting, only to find there were none. She had the usual bout of angst about breaking a promise to God. Feeling rather silly to ask, she decided to see if a friend would finish the walk for her. The lesson she learned didn’t come from the walk she couldn’t do herself, but it came from finding a church member who would take her place during a cold season, just so she could have peace of mind. She learned that God created us so that we need not only him, but we also need one another.
First Christian Church is emphasizing that truth in all they do, and the labyrinth may be the perfect place to ponder God’s perfect purpose for his children.