Pastor Lynn is one of the folks in churches, mosques, Buddhist temples, community organisations, special needs groups and more that I cold called some weeks back, offering to bring the labyrinth to their door. Lynn was one of the very few who not only replied, but showed a genuine interest in the venture.
Moreover, she broke off in the middle of what I’m sure was a much needed holiday to welcome me to her church, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Montgomery, in Montgomery, AL.
A generous spirit and keen appreciation for the labyrinth was obvious among others who came to our walk too – from the touching food gift that was given to me for my journey as I left, to the deep knowing about the labyrinth’s connecting and grounding power of the chaps who stepped out of their yoga and meditation groups to be with us.
Lynn’s hospitality extended to sharing a light lunch with me earlier in the day. There, she spoke about her powerful ministry to inmates on Death Row at a prison not far from the city.
In Alabama, more than 100 men who are awaiting execution are held in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours each day. Lynn, or one of the very few other friends who are able to visit, might be the only friendly face they see each month (most are never visited by family or others).
I know there are many who would argue that they fully deserve such punishment, and that in the often many years that they await execution, society should “throw away the key.”
Having been affected when i visited a former execution chamber at a prison in my own country a few years ago (albeit, capital punishment was ended in the UK many years ago), I respect, but do not hold that view, and couldn’t help reflecting on how I might feel were I incarcerated in a small space, perhaps trying to come to terms with the crime I may have committed. A labyrinth would surely help.
I then suggested to Lynn offering printed (finger paper) labyrinths for the men to have in their cells, and that she might be able to say a little about what to do with them when she visited.
Of course, this isn’t as straightforward to bring about – understandably, the prison has very strict rules about what may be brought inside, such as no paper and (very likely) no books for the prison library that might be considered to have a spiritual or esoteric focus.
I have an idea for opening up the possibility of making the labyrinth available “inside” that might be acceptable (I don’t feel that it’s right to say too much about this just yet) – and that possibly might meet with the prison’s rules.
I’ll need to do some work on this when I return to the UK, and sound out my idea with Lynn. I awoke at 3am following my time at UUF Montgomery, with the idea still burning inside me, so I feel that it is worth trying to put up this kite, to see where it may fly.
Lynn attended an execution in her old state of Georgia a year or two ago, where she was also a friend to inmates. I can scarcely imagine the impossible task of facing those who strongly oppose her (and the family of the condemned man), the media scrum (the execution was reported in the media of 17 countries), prayers for the safe and peaceful release of the spirit of the man who was strapped to the gurney, and of course the loved ones of the victim, who were doubtless reliving and struggling to come to terms with their grief. This seems to me to be a situation close to hell, and is one in which fiercely divided opinions, brokenness and a search for understanding must have been paramount. To hold the pain of all in her heart and prayers is exceptional. In my view, Lynn is one remarkable lady.