New Sunderland labyrinth will feed the hungry this Easter

FOOD CHALLENGE: Reverend Chris Howson sets out a maze with donated food.
FOOD CHALLENGE: Reverend Chris Howson sets out a maze with donated food.
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SUNDERLAND Minster has come up with an a-maze-ing way to help Wearside’s neediest families.

Over the course of Holy Week, the church will create a “Labyrinth of Our Times,” using donations that will then go to local food banks.

“The labyrinth is a way of encouraging personal reflection and hopefully people will think about issues of equality in our society.”

Rev Chris Howson

A maze has been laid out on the floor and will be filled in with lines of tins, packets and jars brought in by anyone wishing to donate.

Priest Chris Howson said there was a long tradition of using mazes as an aid to contemplation.

“Labyrinths are nothing new in churches, the most famous being at Chartres Cathedral and the most recent being installed in the refit of Wakefield Cathedral,” he said.

“They are ways of encouraging a prayerful journeying inward and outward, and often have a surprising impact on participants.

“The labyrinth is a way of encouraging personal reflection and, hopefully, people will think about issues of equality in our society – which is why it is called the Labyrinth of Our Times.

“We hope people come in and make donations of things such as pasta, rice and tins of food – anything non-perishable – which will be passed on to a local food bank at the end of the week.

“The intention is to move the Labyrinth from simply a place for personal reflection to one with a more overtly political dimension.

“Of course, our prayers are at one level internal and individual, but faith encourages an essentially social spiritual life.

“The daily prayer Jesus gave us is completely communal: ‘Give US this day OUR daily bread’, and yet 20th century Western forms of Christianity became increasingly influenced by the individuality encouraged by modern-day capitalism.

“The ‘Labyrinth of our Times’ encourages us to respond to this situation. As we enter it, we are asked to prayerfully work out our own response to a world of increasing inequality.

“As we emerge from it - we are challenged to lead lives of faith that resist poverty and challenge the inequalities inherent within Capitalism.

“Minster priest Andrew Dowsett said: “Walking a labyrinth is an ancient way of praying, a journey towards the heart of God that twists and turns, but - unlike a maze - has no dead ends.

“We felt marking the path with food donations was a fitting way to think about the needs of the world for which Jesus gave himself, and reflect on what it means to take up our cross and follow him today.”

Canon Sheila Bamber added: “The experience of hunger in Sunderland today is one in which God might seem distant, only to be discovered in a moment, in the kindness of a volunteer or indeed in the vulnerability of a client.

“It may seem an unlikely place of revelation, but then again so was Good Friday.”

Anyone is welcome to bring non-perishable items to fill in the gaps in the labyrinth throughout the week.

In addition to the Minster’s usual opening hours of 9am-3pm, there will be opportunities to experience the Labyrinth between 7.30pm and 8.30pm tonight and tomorrow evening, at a service of anointing and healing at 7pm on Maundy Thursday and between noon and 2pm on Good Friday.