Feature Story

OWU’s New Labyrinth Provides a Path for Quiet Reflection

July 30, 2015 – by Cole Hatcher

The family of Kathe Law Rhinesmith ’64 is honoring her with the creation of a labyrinth on the Ohio Wesleyan campus. She is helping to build the 47-foot circular structure, which is designed to resemble the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France. (Photo by Mark Schmitter ’12)

As she delivered the convocation address during her 50-year class reunion in 2014, Kathe Law Rhinesmith ’64 spoke of the power and peace created by labyrinths. And borrowing a favorite phrase from Ohio Wesleyan University President Rock Jones, Kathe urged her listeners to “just imagine” the addition of a labyrinth to the OWU campus.

Among those in the audience was her husband, Steve, who decided to surprise Kathe by turning her vision into reality. He and the couple’s sons, Colin and Chris, soon began planning the project. Kathe found out about their gift when it was announced during the fall 2014 meeting of the OWU Board of Trustees. Kathe, a life trustee, recalls the moment as “one of the high points of my life.”

OWU’s labyrinth is located between Merrick Hall and the Delaware Run. (Photo by Mark Schmitter ’12)

Another high point for Kathe was returning to campus July 27, 2015, to help with construction of the 47-foot circular labyrinth, being built in a grove of trees between Merrick Hall and the Delaware Run. Kathe stepped into the secluded site at twilight and knew immediately the location was perfect.

“The area was filled with fireflies,” Kathe recalls. “I thought I was just going to melt away. It was beautiful.”

The new labyrinth is equally striking, featuring a design inspired by one of the world’s oldest walkable labyrinths – an 800-year-old path at Chartres Cathedral near Paris, France. Both labyrinths feature rosette-style centers, resembling the rose windows present in the soaring, gothic cathedrals of Northern France.

But OWU’s labyrinth is unique in that its 17,600 stone pavers will not be set directly into the earth. Instead, the pavers will rest on a concrete base. The outer rings of rock will be glued into place, sand will be poured over the hand-set pavers, and the labyrinth will be sealed to protect it. OWU’s labyrinth was designed by well-known labyrinth architect Robert Ferré and is being installed by Debi and Marty Kermeen of Illinois-based Labyrinths in Stone.

The OWU labyrinth will be dedicated Oct. 5 with the celebration including a 4 p.m. lecture in Merrick Hall by Lauren Artress, founder of Veriditas, the World-Wide Labyrinth Project. She is the author of three books including “The Sacred Path Companion: A Guide to Walking the Labyrinth to Heal and Transform.” Artress holds a bachelor’s degree in special education from The Ohio State University, a master’s in education from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a doctorate in pastoral psychotherapy from Andover Newton School of Theology.

The goal of her California-based nonprofit organization is to “pepper the planet with labyrinths,” including a new initiative to create a series of interconnected “Veriditas Legacy Labyrinths.” Ohio Wesleyan’s labyrinth will be only the third such legacy labyrinth in world. The others are located in La Falda, Argentina, and Jacksonville Beach, Florida – and each contains a piece from the other two in order to support an interconnected global community and peace.

Following the Oct. 5 lecture, everyone will be invited to walk outside to the labyrinth for an asperging, or blessing with water. During the unique ceremony, Kathe says guests will be able to dip tree branches in water and sprinkle the stone pavers.

Kathe, chair of the labyrinth ministry committee at her church in Naples, Florida, says she considers OWU’s labyrinth to be a sacred space, but notes that it is nondenominational and open to anyone.

“I’d like to believe it’s a place where each person who comes here will find something,” Kathe says, whether that be a casual and peaceful walk or a deeper moment of self-discovery and self-reflection.

“My wish is everyone who comes here will come away with some quiet new perspective on their life or the world around them.”