In San Francisco, walking was surely an increased activity that happened during the pandemic. Everything was closed and locked down. Slow streets started popping up everywhere in the city – one of them being right on Lake Street, where the church resides.
As a church, we weren’t allowed to open our doors because any gathering of people was prohibited. But what’s a church if it’s not the people? It’s just an empty building. That time really tested our identity as a faith community. If our mission is “led by the compassion of Jesus and the creativity & mystery of the Spirit, we are an open & welcoming community that shares the love of God with one another and the world,” how do we live that out when there are no people to do that work or receive it?
It was a real discerning time to rediscover who God was calling us to be during this particular time? And as we pondered how we would respond, we looked to the walkers. In a city, where there isn’t a lot of space, we were forced out of our cramped apartments and living spaces and into the streets, but I really wondered what if St. John’s was able to open the doors for walkers to come in, lay down whatever concerns they carry and leave with whatever peace and comfort they needed to go on their way.
So I called and asked the city and they allowed us to keep our doors open. And I quickly pulled whatever Christmas lights I could find and I made a makeshift labyrinth. And then we got more playful with it, we built a huge paper tree. And as people wrote their prayers on leaves, flowers, and butterflies, the tree began to bloom. We built a huge sand pit for people to consider what they carry in this wilderness time and take a succulent home to bring life to them. We built huge chalkboards for people to share their stories and see that they are not alone in this.
And through this, it changed us. It changed St. John’s. It changed the way we lived out our baptismal vocation. The neighborhood taught us that we don’t need the building to be an impactful presence and at the same time showed us how this building can be more than just worship on Sundays, but a safe place for people to experience God’s love, compassion, and grace.
That’s how the Lake St. labyrinth came about.
This isn’t the usual labyrinth pattern. This labyrinth has an entrance and an exit.
Because the garden spot was small, the labyrinth would have to utilize the sidewalk space as well. The other challenge of this location was that it got no sun and had to be drought-tolerant.
The first step was to clear the space of any plants, weeds, tree roots, and debris as well as level the area.
Next, I laid out the labyrinth pattern using string on the dirt and chalk on the sidewalk.
Using 8 ft. x 14-Gauge x 4 in. steel landscape edging, I placed the edging following the string pattern.
Once the edging was in place, landscape fabric was cut and laid down before the path was filled in with gravel.
For contrast, bigger red rocks were placed on top.
The beauty of this project is that all the succulents were donated by the neighbors – clippings from their yards or donated plants.
The sidewalk was professionally done by using pavers to fill out the pattern.
Since this was a gift to our neighbors, St. John’s wrote positive messages on rocks and put them in the labyrinth for walkers to see. With a few added signs to give instructions and a kids’ area to hang out, the labyrinth was complete.
This labyrinth isn’t just our labyrinth. It is the neighborhood labyrinth. Walkers, our food pantry clients, the preschoolers at the church all witnessed this labyrinth coming in, all contributed to it. And now all get to enjoy it.
2 thoughts on “Building a Succulent Labyrinth”