One garden. Two pandemics. A hundred years.

Amidst a bustling, recently-developed suburban town resides a slice of nature steeped in history — a unique history of healing that spans over 100 years.

Consecrated in 1918, the Epiphany Episcopal Chapel in Odenton, Maryland, ministered to the needs of World War I soldiers on their way to the trenches in France and served as a mission for the nearby village. The chapel and its surrounding grounds soon became a kind of “home away from home” for all people — regardless of religious affiliation or situation. It offered a safe haven for its community to gather, cope and heal during those challenging times — including the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Today, over a century later, we see a striking parallel — community members trying to cope and process today’s crises are finding themselves drawn to the church’s two-acre grounds.

According to Reverend Dr. Phebe McPherson, Rector and Firesoul at Epiphany, the congregation first began to use the space for outdoor worship and gathering during the initial outbreak, but now an influx of nearby residents are finding themselves walking the grounds to connect with nature.

“Our congregation found respite and new visitors found access in this Sacred Place.”
— Dr. Phebe McPherson, Rector and Firesoul

Visitors are now greeted by a meaningful peace garden — home of a Sacred Place — that was designed roughly 20 years ago near the church’s cemetery. This space offers its community a place to reflect and pay homage to the 2,929 military chaplains who served in World War I.

As Dr. McPherson observed the growing need for nature healing, the idea struck: a labyrinth should be integrated into the grounds, to offer people a mindful means to meander — a nature space to allow the public to “return, recenter and be restored.” Together with her parishioners, she began planning for a labyrinth that would serve as a permanent memorial established at this historic time of pandemic to honor community service and embrace social justice. The space would also provide a serene setting for healthful outdoor programs; for instance, individual and group meditation and yoga practices for adults and children.

She took this germ of an idea and turned to the Nature Sacred Firesoul Network to identify — how might this vision be realized?

Here’s how the collaboration ensued:

  • One of our Design Advisors, Jay Graham — experienced landscape architect and long-time Nature Sacred collaborator — was immediately drawn to this unique project and offered pro-bono assistance for scoping labyrinth materials, location, and guidance for new plantings to complement existing trees and plants.
  • Phebe was also connected to Denise McHugh at University of Maryland, a fellow Firesoul and labyrinth-caretaker, who loaned guidance on labyrinth design, programming opportunities, and community engagement initiatives.

Today, the labyrinth is almost complete. It will be unveiled during the Chapel’s winter holiday services and events, including their Christmas pageant and outdoor candlelight vigil.

As Phebe said, “so many people have found solace and delight during the pandemic in this Sacred Place, I can’t wait until they happen upon the labyrinth! Just wait until they discover it!”

We’re excited to see this beautiful labyrinth come to life — to continue to serve on the church’s mission of offering a safe haven to all people, from all walks of life, looking to heal, strengthen and come together in times of need. We’ll chronicle the journey as we go.

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