Permanent Peace Walk

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Monument to late pastor also will help soothe, center others

By Katie Hogin

Mazes are a lot like life. They are filled with numerous diversions and countless dead ends, mirroring life’s stressors. On the other hand, a labyrinth leads the way to the other side — a single path with one destination. It’s a tool for delving through the chaos, and is an aide to meditation, trust and guidance. Such is the idea of Bethel Presbyterian Church’s newly constructed labyrinth, which is dedicated to the late pastor Marc Sherrod. Sherrod’s goal of creating a labyrinth for public use finally came to fruition this past weekend, when the labyrinth was constructed. Planning for the spiral walkway started early in 2009, when the church asked the city’s permission to build a labyrinth on city property. A long-time lover of labyrinths and the comfort they brought, Sherrod died that September, the same month the city approved the project. Nearly a month ago, preparatory work was undertaken by both city employees and prison labor from the Morgan County Correctional Facility. Though they set the foundation and constructed the retaining wall and brick sidewalk, Bethel paid for the materials through several memorial funds. “It is emotional, and I think people will have emotional experiences as they walk the labyrinth,” says Sherrod’s surviving wife, Melanie. The labyrinth is modeled after the one situated in Chartres Cathedral in France and consists of a seven-circuit path leading to the middle circle. The majority of the bricks within Bethel’s labyrinth come from the church’s original foundation and were handmade more than 200 years ago. During Bethel’s renovation in 2008, the church kept the bricks from their foundation when they moved to a new location. “It is challenging to construct a labyrinth, and we feel very blessed to have had the expertise of Stuart Bartholomaus, nationally recognized master labyrinth builder and Roane County master gardener,” Cathy McDowell says. Additional help from church members and youth group members of both Bethel Presbyterian and Kingston United Methodist churches contributed to the labyrinth’s quick and successful construction. “He’s looking down on us with a smile,” Sherrod says. The labyrinth is accessible to the public and situated behind Bethel Presbyterian on 203 Kentucky St., next to the walking trail overlooking Watts Bar Lake.