By Lydia Melby, Arts Editor
The ACU campus will soon feature yet another place for students, visitors and alumni to reflect and relax in the form of a circular stone labyrinth, which is currently under construction outside the Bob and Shirley Hunter Welcome Center. The labyrinth, which forms a limestone and granite plaza outside the Welcome Center, is intended to become a place of spiritual rest and meditation.
Although the word ‘labyrinth’ may evoke images of intricate mazes with high walls of stone or hedge, labyrinth is more of a symbolic plaza and is modeled after a similar 11-circuit labyrinth design built circa 1100 A.D. at the Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France.
“The labyrinth is another contemplative space like the Trail Heads on the Lunsford trail or Jacob’s Dream, but the labyrinth is an old style medieval space,” said Kevin Watson, associate vice president for administrative services. “It is a reminder of our Christian journey and will provide people with opportunity to slow down and think about their walk with God.”
A large plaque set outside the plaza explains the purpose and meaning of the labyrinth, stating, “The Christian Life is a journey on the way of Jesus. this place pictures the way as a labyrinth. It is not a maze. There are no false turns or dead ends. It is not a puzzle, but a guided path reminding the walker that we journey as pilgrims under the care of the Lord.”
The Rich Welcome Plaza and Labyrinth is dedicated in honor of Kenneth and Virginia Rich by their four children and their spouses: Jack Rich and his wife Karen, John Rich and his wife Cheryl, Allan Rich and his wife Janice and Gail Keker and her husband John.
“The idea for putting one on campus actually came from a conversation I had about ten years ago with Jan Meyer, the director of ACU Leadership camps,” said Jack Rich, senior vice president and chief investment officer of ACU. “At that point, Kevin Watson and I started looking for a place we could put it on campus. We have had a design for a number of locations over the years, but for some reason or another, we never had the chance to actually do it, until now.”
Rich said although labyrinths of this sort are somewhat popular at churches and hospitals, he does not know of any other universities that may have a similar feature.
The plaza and labyrinth officially will be dedicated in February with the dedication of the center. The cost of the plaza and labyrinth is funded by the Rich family and is part of the estimated $15.7 million Hunter Welcome Center.
Rich explained that while he hopes it will become a place for spiritual reflection, it also is a versatile feature.
“It’s not just a labyrinth. It’s also a plaza that can be used for a number of purposes,” Rich said. “People can just sit and enjoy the outdoors with the ACU lake nearby. I think it’s going to be a popular place for people to sit and relax, and it’s connected to the walking trail so it can be a place for people to rest, and it can be used for receptions and things like that as well.”
However, the labyrinth does find its principle purpose in religious symbolism.
“This is not a maze, but a path to follow, one that represents our journey from earth to heaven,” Watson said. “Hopefully it will be a place for people to sit and have their quiet time or devotional and think about what God has done for them.”