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A path of peace at Unity of Gainesville
Church opens area as a gift to community
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Phyllis Wintter, Sophia Loner, Robin Volker and Barbara Schaeffer spend time Wednesday at the Unity of Gainesville’s Peace Labyrinth. The bench in the center of the labyrinth allows walkers to sit and reflect on their journey before following the path back out of the labyrinth. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Unity of Gainesville Peace Labyrinth

Where: Unity of Gainesville, 3415 Stancil Road, Gainesville

More info: 770-534-0949 or www.unityofgainesville.org

Lynn White knows there is a difference between a normal labyrinth and the new Peace Labyrinth at Unity of Gainesville.

Unlike a traditional labyrinth, which can be a complicated and confusing maze, a peace labyrinth is designed as a single continuous path to easily follow.

“A maze, you can get lost in,” White said. “A labyrinth, you never get lost. You can’t. You stay on the path and it comes to the center.”

With that small piece of knowledge, White’s interest in labyrinths grew into a passion, leading the Lumpkin County woman to explore labyrinths across the state and research them around the world. Finally a year ago, she approached her church leaders about building a peace labyrinth at Unity of Gainesville church. They agreed.

“We got a committee going and then we started with this,” she said, motioning to the ancient left-handed seven-circuit design on the church’s property at 3415 Stancil Road in Gainesville.

Opening May 2 — which turned out to be World Labyrinth Day — the Peace Labyrinth’s purpose is to help open the mind for those who enter into it and walk the circular paths to the center. 

“It’s just a nice quite place,” White said. “It’s an aid to meditation or to introspection. It’s not really a ‘thing’, there’s nothing magic about it.”

Unity of Gainesville Church member Jeré McMahan was excited about the Peace Labyrinth opening, especially since he has walked the labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church in San Francisco.

“It’s something that’s unusual for this area,” McMahan said. “I’m thrilled we had the interest, that the people in our congregation were enthralled with the idea and supported it very well.”

McMahan attributed the labyrinth’s success to those who helped secure money for the project through fundraisers and others who donated not only their money but their time. McMahan said many church congregants poured sweat equity into the labyrinth by spending weekends assisting with its actual construction.

“The ones (who) put their backs into it, they really got in there and put their work where their mouth was and really did it,” he said.

The Peace Labyrinth is modeled after one at White’s home. With the help of her husband, the low-maintenance design was enlarged and structured to fit the church’s available space.

The maze is constructed of stone pavers and crushed slate, with benches marking the cardinal directions. The entrance of the maze starts on the East.

After entering the labyrinth, the pavers lead a path that circles seven times before ending in the center. A bench allows walkers to sit and reflect on their journey before following the same path out.

“It is kind of a metaphor for life’s journey,” White said. “It is fun to walk to by yourself, but it’s also really interesting to walk it with other people because you’ll pass them at different places at different times.”

The circular path also can help people find answers to their problems or find relief from their concerns.

“As you walk in, ask for guidance for that,” White said. “As you get to the center, some say that your guidance will come. And then offer gratitude as you come out for doing that.”

White added labyrinths are not strictly religious. Many are found at hospitals, schools and business buildings around the world. The Unity of Gainesville Church’s Peace Labyrinth is officially listed on The Labyrinth Society’s website and available for all to walk.

“There’s a whole group of folks (who) when they travel, they look on (the website) and see if there is a labyrinth in the area and then go walk that labyrinth,” White said.

She thought the church’s property would be an excellent spot for a labyrinth for the church members and community to use.

“I ... thought wouldn’t that be a nice use of this gorgeous property and it also is a gift to the community too,” she said.

Her theory proved true. White said she sees the most use of the labyrinth before and after church services. However, people have told her they visit the labyrinth while they run errands.

“Because sometimes in our hurried busy life, to be able to take a 30 minute lunch break and come be quiet and have a little reflection is a good thing,” she said. “That mindful walk, you just put your mind on that, on taking your steps or question or your mantra, or your prayer, whatever you want, and as you come out there is always a sense of calm and ease and relief; some people use it for healing.”

The Peace Labyrinth is open to the public and available anytime for meditation or guidance. To learn more about the Unity of Gainesville Church, visit www.unityofgainesville.org.

“It’s just a tool to help you seek that inner guidance that we choose to call God here, or spirit,” White said.

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