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Manchester churches create prayer labyrinth

Two historically connected Manchester congregations, the Immanuel Lutheran Church and the Trinity United Church of Christ, worked together to create a prayer labyrinth out of donated food items Sunday afternoon.

"We were looking for a joint project to bring the members of the two churches' congregations together," explained Charlie Marshall, the pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church. "The churches have a shared history going back to 1760. The two denominations, German Reform and German Lutheran, shared a building on this site."

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Marshall said the labyrinth is based on the design of the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in France. He explained that labyrinths are used during prayer.

"People walk through the labyrinth slowly, reflecting on the twists and turns of life that lead them to God. The path ends in a central circle where people can stop to pray. They return by the same path as God sends us back into the world to serve others," Marshall said.

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"My personal experience of walking the labyrinth is that every time you learn something new," added Suzanne Adele Schmidt, the pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ. "It has a way of transforming how you look at your life and your relationship with God."

Marshall began laying out the design with masking tape at 6:30 a.m. Sunday. Around noon, 25 children and 15 adults from both congregations filled in the outline with 830 food and other items.

Schmidt said the items will be donated to Northeast Social Action Program (NESAP) in Hampstead and the Tree of Friends Foundation in Manchester.

"It's a way of giving back to the community," Schmidt said.

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Children walk through a prayer labyrinth of donated canned goods created by Immanuel Lutheran Church and Trinity United Church of Christ in Manchester on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017.
Children walk through a prayer labyrinth of donated canned goods created by Immanuel Lutheran Church and Trinity United Church of Christ in Manchester on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. (Alan White / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Schmidt said the congregations have been collecting items since the beginning of February with the help of Manchester Elementary School students, Boy Scout Troop 320 and Cub Scout Pack 320.

Marshall said the labyrinth will be open to the public 8:30 a.m. to noon on Ash Wednesday, March 1. It will also be used during worship at 1 and 7 p.m. on that day.

On Thursday, Manchester Elementary School's Road to Respect Club will come and pack up the food. Members from both churches will deliver it to the organizations.

Immanuel Lutheran Church member and Boy Scout Ryan Edwards, 10, of Manchester, helped create the labyrinth.

"I think it really represents life with its twists and turns," Ryan said. "Once you get to the center, you can spend some time praying."

Ryan said creating the labyrinth was "very hard work."

"We used a lot of food," Ryan said. "I'm glad it's going to go to people that don't have a meal every day."

Ryan's mother, Jennifer Edwards, said the activity was a "good opportunity to come together."

"It's a nice way to give back to others as well as to have a time to reflect and pray on our blessings," said Edwards.

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If you go

When: The labyrinth will be open to the public 8:30 until noon on Ash Wednesday, March 1. It will also be used during worship at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Where: Immanuel Lutheran Church, 3184 Church St., Manchester



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