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Mar 24, 2017 | Anna Demmler

Grace Episcopal Tree of Life Labyrinth dedication nears

[Southwest News] Reverend Gena Davis stood tall. She was happy, proud, and a smile grew on her face. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she asked while staring at the Tree of Life Labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church.

Grace began fundraising for their cretan-style plants within the space. “It will be a very natural environment that reflects this part of the world.” There will be three specific parts upon completion. “First is the labyrinth itself,” says Davis. “Then the prayer garden which will include the memorial stone, and then a worship space.” The labyrinth is meant to be a walking meditation tool, and one thing (or rather, two things) that really struck Davis and other Grace members were the two large oak trees at Grace, planted in the 1950s. The trees “will create a huge canopy over the labyrinth,” says Davis. The specific design comes from local Houston artist Reginald Adams, who has designed several labyrinths world-wide and has done many in Houston

In fact, Grace members decided on the classically-styled labyrinth after a full day of touring Adams’ different art, led by the artist himself. “We saw it over at the Cenacle Retreat House,” says Davis. “We gasped! The labyrinth looked like a tree trunk in a tree, and we just loved this idea of walking, or flowing into, the crown of the tree.” This physical and symbolic flow is very important to Grace and its members, because one of Grace’s foundations is contemplative prayer. Members also participate in other peaceful and joyful, group activities, such as yoga. “Flow is all about who we are!” laughs Davis. “We wanted Reginald to help us figure out what would be the very best design for us: aesthetically pleasing, sacred, flow with our environment, something to fit our contemplative community.

The memorial stone next to the labyrinth is psychiatrist Albert Ebaugh’s, the deceased husband of Helen Rose Ebaugh, a member of Grace, a sponsor for the labyrinth, and an emeritus professor at the University of Houston. “Albert died of ALS. He was a very gentle, reflective person. The garden is very much in his spirit,” says Ebaugh. “He loved nature. A quiet kind of fella!” When Albert passed, his funeral was held at Grace, so Ebaugh asked that instead of flowers, money be donated to Grace. Later on, Ebaugh decided to use the almost $6,000 raised as seed money for the labyrinth’s campaign on Go Fund Me. The memorial stone has a chip on the top, center of it.

“Albert loved throwing and skipping rocks. The chip is so perfect for his memorial stone,” she said. A large factor of this project is how much heart and soul everyone puts into it, and this positive energy has come out in many different ways. In addition to Ebaugh’s generous donation, there have been many more kind contributors. A woman living in the apartment complex across the street from Grace donated an entire box of wood violets from her own backyard.

Troop 740 Boy Scouts stepped in as well. “They helped us for about four Saturdays,” says Davis. “Heavy duty labor with wheel bar-rows, it was crazy! It was a lot. We put in tons of stone.” Several men from St. John’s Methodist Church downtown have recently started coming on Saturdays to lay bricks and continue the heavy labor jobs. “People also bring tacos and breakfast for the men of St. John’s,” adds Ebaugh. The labyrinth will have “one path that leads you in, and it’s symbolic of the jour-ney of our lives,” says Davis.

“Our lives take twists and turns. There are challenges, joys and sorrows. When you enter the labyrinth, you don’t see a straight line, you don’t know where you’re going, you start walking, follow the path, twist and turn, and then eventually you’ll end in the center. That’s symbolic of being in the heart of God…The exit follows the same type of turns.” Davis explains further the symbolism behind trees in-corporated into this sacred space. “Trees have incred-ible roots, deep in the earth, and their strength comes from these strong roots… The tree ultimately reaches up to the sunlight, growing and grow-ing spiritually up to the S-O-N.”

Grace hopes that for any-one who needs it, the labyrinth, memorial and prayer garden, and the worship space protected by the giant oak trees will provide peace for all who visit. The labyrinth will be dedicated on Sunday, April 2, at 11:30 a.m. All are welcome to come. Grace Episcopal Church is located at 4040 W. Bellfort. To make a monetary donation for this project, visit www.gofundme.com/treeoflifeatgrace.

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