A sacred beginning

An Ashland tradition offers an alternate approach to celebrating the new year. The 13th annual Sacred Walk to the New Year starts with an opening ceremony presented by ritualist Elizabeth Austin at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31, in Wesley Hall at First United Methodist Church, 175 N. Main St., Ashland.

"The Sacred Walk provides an opportunity to walk the labyrinth in a peaceful oasis of beauty and live inspirational music," Austin says. "Many find it a welcome alternative to ending the old year and beginning the new, especially amidst the tensions of the times."

The labyrinth walk will be open to visitors until 1 a.m., and reopen at 9 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 1. Austin and her team of volunteers will present a closing ceremony at 6 p.m.

Austin's labyrinth is a replica of the famous one laid in stone during the early 1200s at Chartres Cathedral in France. Its design has been hand-painted on a large-scale canvas that can be rolled out for use.

Austin bought the canvas in 1997 from Veriditas, an organization founded in the early '90s by Lauren Artress, a canon of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

"Artress was the one who recognized the labyrinth's strength as a spiritual tool, and she took it out into the world," says Austin.

The particular pattern replicated on Austin's canvas also is used on the labyrinth next to Trinity Episcopal Church in Ashland and the one at Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford.

The Sacred Walk is free, but donations will be accepted.

See www.ashlandmethodist.org, or call 541-482-4132 or 541-482-3647.

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