In a culture which is getting ever-busier, in which we are ever more bombarded by advertisements and images and in which you can't even wait for a train at some stations or fill up with petrol at some garages without being exposed to the TV - and in a society which is demanding longer working hours and in which you get less quality time with yourself, others and indeed God - the idea of having 'space' is becoming crucial.
We need space. Time to contemplate and meditate - time to stop is, in fact, becoming a rare commodity. Even in our sleep we are processing the busyness of the day and trying to cope with it. Like the TV, it seems almost impossible to switch off.
It is peculiar how many church services mirror the world outside. There is often a lot of noise and a degree of general chaos. While of course we should want to be relevant, we also need to be counter-cultural. On the labyrinth we can counter the culture by promoting the idea of sacred space, to give people the time, the peace, the quiet and the reflection that they just don't get outside. The time for prayer and worship. The time to think about the things that really count. 'Within your temple, O Lord, we meditate on your unfailing love', writes the Psalmist (Ps. 48:9). But do we? Many of us live lives that are stressful and over-busy.
The labyrinth is an opportunity to symbolically 'let go' of the busyness for a while, to be still and listen, to ourselves and to God. We do not encourage people to ignore or forget their day to day problems on the labyrinth; rather, by highlighting such concerns we allow them to be specifically brought before God and then set aside for a while. This is no escapist spirituality - the aim is that we might come out at the end of it better able to live out our real lives as real people and to incarnate (verb) Christ to others.
The process of 'letting go' is also akin to repentance. However it is framed in a way that empowers the person walking the labyrinth rather than crushing them and as ever is focused on the goal of renewed relationship. We make a positive decision and choose to let go and move on from the patterns of behaviour that spoil our relationships (with others, ourselves, the planet and God). Again such a process is part of the preparation to 'meet with God', it is about clearing away the clutter.
Letting go is also about forgiveness. As we walk the labyrinth we are given the chance to remember and begin to let go of the hurtful things others have done to us. We remember that as we have been forgiven our sins so we should forgive others. Again this helps to begin to clear away things that may prevent relationship. This part of the labyrinth may expose some painful memories and can potentially be rather traumatic, however we believe that the process of forgiving others is an essential element of our Christian faith.