Religion News: December 2021

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Mary Ann Wamhoff with a miniature labyrinth. Photo: Malcolm Andrews.

Twisted Path Leads to New Spiritual Understanding

She’s been a reading specialist, an ESL teacher, a massage therapist, a musician, and a tai chi instructor. Now, Crozet resident Mary Ann Wamhoff has found a way to use all of her experience to bring an ancient practice of spirituality to her new community.

Wamhoff was drawn to labyrinths as a way to be with other people who also acknowledge the need for spirituality, quiet, and peaceful focus.  Like music, tai chi and massage, the walking meditation of a labyrinth is a physical expression of an otherwise inward process. Teaching has helped her in her new profession, too. The veteran teacher found that people respond well to some gentle guidance as they step carefully through the intricate pathways. She’s an advanced, accredited labyrinth facilitator, and she said her studies showed her how to turn this type of communal walking into a practice promoting cooperation and patience. 

The large canvas labyrinth ready for walkers at Crozet Library.

“We hang around until the last person is finished before we leave,” she said, “so there’s time for us to learn about labyrinths in little bites, and time to share any thoughts.” She likes to have a theme for each walk: the first one, before Thanksgiving, had the theme of gratitude. Participants gave thanks for personal blessings by noting them on a poster. The second, at the start of Advent, took the theme of welcoming hope; the third one, coming up Dec. 21 at the Crozet Library, celebrates the solstice and our chance to become a light in the dark season.

People don’t always know what to expect when they start, and sometimes think they may have “done it wrong.” That’s not important, Wamhoff said: “If you stay on the path, you will get to the center.” The concentration imposes quiet on the mind and leaves a sense of calm and peace.

Remember, Release, Receive, Return

It’s certainly possible to walk alone on a labyrinth and come away with the many benefits of a slower pace and increased awareness, but sharing the experience with others in a guided walk encourages a spirit of community and provides prompts for contemplation. Before the pre-Thanksgiving walk, Wamhoff invited walkers to remember (“re”+”member”), which literally means putting ourselves back together. At the entrance she asked them to release anxiety and worry. They then negotiated the mysterious geometry of ancient labyrinths, known as “sacred geometry” because its patterns are found all around us, in crystals, flower petals, snowflakes, shells, and stars.

At the center, she invites participants to receive: to ask a question and wait for the answer. “But you can’t stay forever in the warm, fuzzy center” she said. “You have to return, to fulfill whatever it is you are called to do.” 

Wamhoff brings a handmade labyrinth to these Crozet practices, one she created on canvas with friends, based on the world’s most famous labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral. She likes the idea that introducing this practice will help her get to know people, and also provide a comfortable gathering in our current contentious environment. “If we can learn to walk together peacefully, maybe we can eventually talk peacefully,” she said.

Meals Feed the Hungry and Comfort the Lonely in Crozet

Our Crozet-area churches seriously embrace their mission to feed the hungry, offering a variety of non-judgmental, convenient ways for struggling families to stock their pantries and feed their families during the holidays and in every season. Recently, several church representatives mentioned that some of those most in need are sometimes the hardest to serve, perhaps being too disabled to cook, or having only a hot plate or a microwave, or lacking refrigeration. 

At 105, Elizabeth is the area’s oldest Meals on Wheels client.

Some of them are served by Meals on Wheels, the non-denominational non-profit that uses volunteers to deliver fresh hot meals to the isolated elderly or disabled every day. There’s a network of local volunteers who regularly bring meals to the 15 or 20 recipients who live in Crozet.

Kathleen Capshaw serves on the board of Meals on Wheels. “For some of these folks, this is the only time they see anyone,” she said. “It’s pretty eye-opening what some of these people are dealing with.” Volunteers who deliver the meals also take the time to observe what’s going on with the people they serve. They’ve reported injuries and sickness, asked for wellness checks, and become familiar enough with their clients and their habits that they can tell when something’s wrong. 

Robin Goldstein, the executive director, said Crozet can use more volunteers. “You don’t have to drive into Charlottesville. The meals are brought in and dropped at the fire station.” Also, volunteers don’t drive every day: they volunteer for as many or as few days as they’re able. In Charlottesville and Albemarle, volunteers brought meals to 255 neighbors, driving a total of 750,000 miles so far in 2021 to do so. 

Shut-ins look forward to each encounter with their drivers and are grateful for the extras that come their way sometimes, like books, birthday presents, pet foods, toiletries and small gifts. 

Meals on Wheels partners with the Jefferson Area Board on Aging. To volunteer, donate, or register to receive home-delivered meals, visit jabacares.org, or call 434-817-5222.

Small Blessings:

St. Paul’s Ivy is now able to hold all its services inside; LegaciEats Food Ministry will dispense meals at Crozet Baptist Church Dec. 11 from 12 to 2 p.m. The BOG food truck has become a regular at events, and sometimes sets up in front of Matt’s Automotive on Route 250. The Christmas Village at Hebron Baptist Church is canceled this year because of the lingering effects of the pandemic. The Crozet United Methodist Church will sponsor a Christmas Bazaar Saturday, Dec. 4 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., with vendors, baked and homemade goods and a breakfast and lunch cafe. Thanks to balmy fall weather and hundreds of visitors, the November Holiday Market at Emmanuel Episcopal Church was a success both for those who participated and those who came to shop. 

Emmanuel’s Holiday Market was a success for vendors, the church, and shoppers.

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