There’s a labyrinth at Christ Church Riverdale. But no worries, no one will get lost.
In fact, the Rev. Andrew Butler hopes some might find the spiritual fulfillment they seek through the Riverdale Labyrinth Walk. Meticulous hands of church community members drew it, and the labyrinth takes up space on the floor of the parish hall complete with exquisite lines and barriers.
Whether they are members of the Henry Hudson Parkway church or not, Butler says everyone is welcome to experience the labyrinth every Tuesday night.
“I’ve experienced walking the labyrinth myself and have found it helpful to my own spiritual life,” Butler said. “There are others in my congregation and in the broader community who had the experience.”
It’s not just the spiritual journey the labyrinth creates that makes it unique, but the fact it’s open to anyone each week between 6 and 8 p.m. Modeled after one located at Chartres Cathedral in France, Christ Church members wanted to explore their faith more deeply and felt the labyrinth could offer that opportunity.
Although it shines on the glossed wooden floor of the parish hall, the labyrinth is indeed meant to be walked upon. Once in the circle, participants are invited to meditate or pray, whichever they prefer.
Sometimes people speak words of scripture, a mantra or a specific word they find centering, Butler said. Prayer is often verbal, while meditation is more silent, standing still and emptying the mind.
“For me, it was a very hectic day, and as you move to the center during the walk, it gives you a tremendous sense of peace,” said Christine Dobrydnio, a Christ Church member. “You kind of level with your concerns and anxiety.”
The labyrinth was made possible through a First Step grant from Episcopal Charities of the Diocese of New York. It was intentionally called the Riverdale Labyrinth Walk because the church wanted people to understand that it was a resource for the entire community without any religious significance. All of it is designed to be a more neutral space, Butler said.
There are no guidelines, no specific instructions on how to use the circle. More than one person, of any age, can walk the labyrinth, and sometimes people may even run into each other.
“Not everyone walks at the same speed, and the labyrinth is really a metaphor for our own spiritual journey,” Butler said.
“We’re all on a path and we do bump into other people, and we have to accommodate and make room for other people.”
But the Riverdale Labyrinth Walk isn’t Butler’s only way of bringing the community together and helping others. The same month the labyrinth was born, Christ Church launched the Jones Educational Support Center for immigrant and refugee students.
Their partnership with the English Language Learners and International School on the John F. Kennedy Campus — which caters to older non-English-speaking students from other countries — allows the church to offer parish hall space to ELLIS students each Wednesday with the hopes of equipping them with an immersive English language experience.
The other part of the program brings Christ Church volunteers to ELLIS classrooms twice a week.
The diversity of the Bronx’s population is part of the reason Butler finds the labyrinth as well as the church’s partnership with ELLIS to be so important. It has a long history of people working together, which is why it is vital there are forums that include everyone, Butler said.
“We’re living in tough times and there is a lot of reasons to be concerned about a lot of things. It is very good to be grounded,” Dobrydnio said. “I think that there’s a part of us that, deep down, is whole and strong, and that’s who we really are, and walking the labyrinth helps reach that point. I walked the labyrinth and I had such a sense of peace.”
Butler’s hope is that community members like Dobrydnio take advantage of the spiritual tool.
“We can use a little extra help in finding peace and harmony in these different times that we are living in,” Butler said. “And my hope is that people will give it a try.”