As mentioned in previous ‘how to’ post, at St Silas we have set up this large Labyrinth for the past 4 or 5 years as a Good Friday ‘journey’ come ‘meditation’ and it has been well received. People find it a useful way to take some time out before the holiday weekend to think about the impact and implications of Jesus death before we go on to celebrate the resurrection on Easter Sunday.
There are many ways to make a Labyrinth, but as I’ve not come across many groups that use all the elements we do I thought it worth laying out some of the choices we have made in making this happen. I’m not trying to say this is the only or best way to do this sort of thing, just what we find works and I welcome comments.
Firstly the physical environment. As described in the previous post we ceate ‘walls’ which are taller than head height. The start of the walk uses black fabric and later this changes to white. Around most corners is an installation or ‘station’, these vary from simply a sign to play a given mp3 track at this point to videos to watch, and physical props to interact with.
The ‘walls’ as well as the lighting, use of personal mp3 players, etc. are designed to give an environment where each person is isolated from distractions and can emerse themselves in the experience as much as possible.
Audio: MP3 tracks, as mentioned the use of headphones/ear buds helps to isolate the user of the labyrinth and help the immersiveness of the experience. The tracks themselves have been created specially for the labyrinth by mixing music with readings and instructions. The pace is carefully planned and the end of each track has been extended following feedback in the first couple of years so that people can remain at any station for longer than instructed and press ‘next’ when they are ready to continue. Each year we have changed elements of the labyrinth and so each year some of these tracks have been remixed. We also make sure we have some printed transcripts of the audio for any visitors with hearing difficulties.
Also, worth mentioning that even though people have personal headphones on they will still hear ambient sound from outside the labyrinth. As we offer tea & coffee at the end of the labyrinth and with team members chatting, handing out players, people coming in and out, etc. we simply can’t keep the place silent. We have tried to address this by playing music as ‘audio camouflage’ and have found that classical music is best, especially nothing with a strong beat.
Installations, most of the ‘stations’ have something to watch, look at or interact with in a variety of ways. Many of these involve simply watching a video loop most of which were specially made and designed to have no (or little) narrative. This means that people could begin to view the video at any point in the video without necessarily loosing any of the impact. One, however was effectively a slide show of stills mixed with words from a poem, which is a lot harder to loop and some people did report that this station didn’t work for them.
We also used two still images, a drawing of Jesus stripped naked and a photograph representing Jesus falling.
This year there were three stations that required some sort of interaction and it is hard to know how well these worked:
– the first has a large piece of wood that represents the cross piece of the cross of Christ and the audio track asks people to think about the cross being given to Jesus to carry and invites them to pick it up to feel the weight. However, very few people tend to do this, I think because it is fairly early on in the labyrinth and people are still finding their way.
– the next example is new this year, where we had a very large cross built and the instruction was much more direct as people were to hammer a nail into the cross representing their individual part in Christ having to be put on the cross.
– lastly, is a bit more subtle. After listening to the track and watching a video people walk through the screen on which the video is being projected. By doing that they become part of the image and go through the cross in a physical as well as spiritual way. I’m not sure how many people notice or get that bit, but it is deliberate.
Multi-Sensory, already mentioned is the use of sight, sound and touch, we also use flowers and strong smelling oils at different stations but as yet haven’t found a way to introduce taste (other than hot cross buns with your coffee at the end).
Accessibility, we have given some thought to this, insofar as we provide a printed alternative to the audio and while a great deal of the labyrinth is visual we think that nothing is missed if only the audio was available. We could also open up an alternative route for wheelchair users if need be because one part of the labyrinth goes on and off our stage.
Why am I writing about all this:
The main reason for this blog is to demonstrate and discuss the use of visuals in worship, but the thing to learn from a labyrinth is that video could be used as a stand alone station – run a video on a plasma screen near the entrance or in a quiet corner for meditation, etc.
Video/visuals within worship doesn’t have to be choosing what image or video to put behind words. As I’ve mentioned previously it could be visuals projected elsewhere on the building or during different parts of the service / meeting / event, not just singing or to transition between parts of the service.