GREENFIELD — Ray and Laurie Neely drove from Orange early Thursday morning to help build a community labyrinth on the campus of the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew on Federal and Church streets.
Brick by brick the Community Labyrinth Coalition and several dozen volunteers throughout the day constructed the labyrinth that can be seen from Federal Street.
“We’re members of the church and it asked for volunteers,” Ray Neely said. “I’m a veteran and think that this is going to be very good for vets. It will offer a calm walk for them when they need it. They don’t have to think about anything — or they can think about whatever they want.”
A labyrinth is a one-course path — one way in and one way out — with no decisions to be made, unlike a maze that is a puzzle intended to amuse and deceive. A labyrinth is a geometric pattern that has a well-defined pathway that winds its way to the center.
Labyrinths have a history that goes back more than 3,000 years to ancient Greece, and it encourages contemplation, much like yoga or walking meditation, which the coalition said it hopes will happen for those who walk it.
A group of more than 30, including inmates from the local jail, started laying bricks at 8 a.m. and planned to finish by 4 p.m., but everyone coordinated their efforts so well, organizers said they believed it would be finished by early-to-mid-afternoon.
“We support a lot of members of our community, and this is an extension of that,” Ginny Crowl of Greenfield said.
Crowl, a member of the church, said she would love to see children, adults, everyone, use it.
Lisa and Denny Moriarty of Paths of Peace traveled from Minnesota to help with the construction. Lisa Moriarty has been designing labyrinths for the past 20 years. She and her husband travel throughout the nation and beyond to help others build them.
“We brought the buckets and tools, and I did the calculations on Wednesday — they told me what they wanted and how many bricks they had,” Lisa Moriarty said. “Today, I’m helping them when there’s a problem or question. My job is simply to supervise and make sure this gets done the right way.”
When the six-path labyrinth is completed, maintenance will simply be mowing it and waiting for a good rain to clean the bricks, she said.
Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan arrived bright and early Thursday to help.
“I learned about this a couple of years ago, when they were planning it,” Sullivan said. “It’s a wonderful project. It helps people find peace and clear their minds. This is great for people in recovery and victims of crime. It’s a harmonious spot.”
Sullivan said he planned to walk the labyrinth when it’s done.
Peggy Vezina, director of the RECOVER Project, said she didn’t know much about labyrinths until she started to help.
“I love the idea,” she said. “It’s all about building community.”
The labyrinth is open to everyone.