‘Sacred Space Holy Time’ at Mennonite College

Another Mennonite youth labyrinth experience took place recently, this time at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate in Kitchener, Ontario.

Sacred Space Holy Time
by Lorie Williams
Rockway Mennonite Collegiate
Posted Jan. 28, 2015

On Friday, December 13, students in Ms. Bauman’s grade 10 Church History course had the unique opportunity of experiencing a prayer labyrinth.
Patricia Horst Wagler, a pastor and trained labyrinth facilitator, led students and staff in exploring the history of the labyrinth as a Christian tool for prayer. She explained the meaning and symbolism of the shape and various features of the labyrinth, and the benefits for many of an active, physical way to pray. She described walking the labyrinth as a way to focus the mind and give insight into one’s life and spiritual journey.
She then invited students to walk the labyrinth in silence. While this was a new experience for many students, they respected the silence, took their time and reflected thoughtfully on this experience of active prayer. Some found it a bit weird! Some found it calming, some noticed it helped them find clarity with a problem or decision, and some liked the way they could use their whole body to connect with God.
An open invitation was extended to anyone else who wanted to walk the labyrinth during their spare or at lunch during Friday’s Sabbath Space.
Warm thanks are extended to Patricia for helping us to create this sacred space and holy time.



Patricia Wagler, who led the grade 10 class through the labyrinth, was recently ordained (Jan. 11) at Tavistock Mennonite Church, where she is the associate pastor. She is also a labyrinth retreat workshop facilitator and a spiritual director, having received her spiritual formation and direction training from Jubilee Ontario. Wagler became a certified labyrinth facilitator through Veriditas, whose mission is to connect people with the labyrinth. This season of Lent (Feb. 18 – April 8 from 3 – 8 p.m. on Wednesdays) Tavistock Mennonite Church offers an open invitation to walk the labyrinth (www.tavistockmennonitechurch.ca).

What would Menno Simons say about that?


Labyrinths – Popping Up at Lots of Seminaries and Christian Colleges


Labyrinth at USMB Youth Conference this Spring – UPDATE!!!

UPDATE!!! February 24th

Menno-lite was notified this morning that the Named 2015 committee had ‘recently decided to cancel the labyrinth’ but had neglected to remove the information about the labyrinth from the website.

They are to be commended for doing so, however, perhaps they should be asked to publish their reasons for putting it there in the first place, and for leaving it on the website after they had decided against it.

The alert will remain as posted as a reminder to pray for and keep the leaders of the Mennonite youth accountable. Bless the prayers of the faithful!


This April 9-12 the National Youth Conference of the US Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches called NAMED 2015 will be held in Denver, Colorado.[1]

The following is one of the activities listed under “ATTRACTIONS” on the website of Named Denver 2015.[2]


The Labyrinth is an interactive installation for spiritual journeys. It’s for anyone who wants a break from surfing the surface of culture to contemplate the deeper things of life. The Labyrinth reshapes a 12th-century ritual for the 21st century. Its maze-like path takes you on a symbolic journey, creates space to unwind and think—in particular about our relationships with ourselves, one another, our planet and God. Designed for young and old alike, it provides a mixture of rituals and visuals, of contemplative words and contemporary ambient music, of symbols and media to help guide the spiritual traveler.
Labyrinths were a feature of many medieval cathedrals, one of the best remaining examples is found in Chartres Cathedral in northern France. Unlike a maze they have only one path—there are no dead ends. People walk labyrinths slowly, as an aid to contemplative prayer and reflection, as a spiritual exercise or as a form of pilgrimage. This contemporary version includes music, meditations, art, media and symbolic activities at intervals along the path. Participants walk the Labyrinth with a MP3 player and headphones, in their own relaxing soundworld, at their own pace. Each track contains meditations, instructions and music relating to a part of Labyrinth.

SOURCE: http://www.Named2015.com/contentpages/32538/bc907310-f3d8-4d4a-b0a4-f2cb97b04af2/PrayerLabyrinth.aspx

This is not the first time that Mennonites have sent their youth to events where they learn to walk the labyrinth.[3] In fact, it is becoming increasingly more common. Is this spiritual trend something that youth should be exposed to at a Christian conference? Read the following links and decide.

LABYRINTHS, Prayer Paths That Promote the Occult

Enter the labyrinth


[1] The National Youth Conference will be held April 9-12, 2015, at Hyatt Regency Downtown and Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colo.
[2] http://www.Named2015.com/
[3] See previous posts:
Mennonite College Dedicates New Prayer Labyrinth
Children Experiencing Mennonite Labyrinth
Mennonite Brethren Sponsored University Promoting the Labyrinth and Taize?
Mennonite Labyrinths
Mennonites and Prayer Labyrinths

Mennonite College Dedicates New Prayer Labyrinth

A student walks the college’s new prayer labyrinth.

Hesston College dedicates prayer labyrinth

Hesston (Kan.) College and the local community now have a new place to go for quiet contemplation or prayer with the completion of Hesston College’s prayer labyrinth.
With candles lighting the path, the labyrinth was dedicated Oct. 30. Bible and ministry faculty member Michele Hershberger led participants through the labyrinth in prayer while local musician Ben Regier set the mood with guitar and mandolin music.
“The labyrinth provides a place to let go of resentments, worries and emotional hurts while walking towards the center of the labyrinth and then to receive God’s love and peace while walking away from the center,” said Hershberger.
Prayer labyrinths offer a way of praying that brings a person’s whole body into the prayer. Individuals walk toward the center of the labyrinth and back out – a physical action that serves as a reminder of the spiritual action they are taking.
“Our physical bodies and spiritual beings are interconnected,” said Clay Stauffer, Hesston College exercise science faculty and labyrinth committee member. “The labyrinth, with its walking and praying, activates this interconnectedness.”
The idea for a prayer labyrinth on the Hesston College campus started in 2002 when former physical education instructor Jen LeFevre returned from a sabbatical where she experienced a prayer labyrinth and thought it would fit well with campus values. LeFevre taught a physical education class called prayer walking where students walked around the campus and town focusing on contemplation, meditation and prayer.

Read more here:

[The Mennonite provides Anabaptist content and is a publication of Mennonite Church USA. The mission of The Mennonite is to help readers glorify God, grow in faith and become agents of healing and hope in our world.]

Also see the announcement at the Hesston College website, here:


[Hesston College is a Christ-centered community where each student is educated and nurtured academically, socially and spiritually. As a two-year liberal arts college, we believe that your first two years should be treated as more than something to get out of the way. They should be seen as an opportunity to lay a solid foundation for the rest of your life.
Hesston College is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA and connects to the denomination through Mennonite Education Agency. The president of Hesston College is a member of the Council of Mennonite Colleges, an organization composed of the presidents of Mennonite colleges in the United States and Canada.]


NOTE: To see other posts on Menno-lite regarding Mennonites and the Labyrinth, click HERE.

Mennonite children following in the Footsteps of Jesus . . . or Marx?

Previously on this blog, a light was shone on a new Mennonite Sunday School curriculum called Shine[1] which will be teaching contemplative spiritual practices to children beginning this fall. This new curriculum also teaches children that they are called to a ministry of reconciliation and peace. In every session of Shine there is a section called Peace Notes. The second of the three goals of these Peace Notes is as follows:

Goal: Follow in the footsteps of Jesus by . . .

– Providing an alternative to worldviews that emphasize individualism, power, and the accumulation of wealth [2]

Is this following what Jesus taught, or is this a Marxist view? It was Carl Marx who said that . . .

Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole… ”[3]

How can providing a Marxist alternative to North American capitalism and our God given right to individualism be a way to train children in the ministry of peace, when . . .

“In reality, however, the Marxist system itself is responsible for the destruction of millions of human beings at the hands of its political parties and dictators, making it the greatest killing machine of all time.”[4]

Is the Shine curriculum teaching a Christian worldview to the children? Do parents want their children to be taught a Marxist worldview in Sunday School? Where are the watchmen on the wall? Who is teaching the children? Who will stand of for the truth?


[1] Contemplative Spiritual Formation in Mennonite Sunday School Curriculum
[2] The Shalom Arc: The Shine Curriculum’s Approach to the Bible
[3] Karl Marx, Capital (London, UK: Sonnenschein, 1982), 660–1. Cited in Harry W. Laidler, History of Socialism (New York, NY: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1968), 152–3.
[4] Marxist Economics – Introduction

Contemplative Spiritual Formation in Mennonite Sunday School Curriculum

The September issue of the Mennonite Brethren Herald[1] is promoting a long awaited new curriculum for children from age 3 to grade 8. Shine has been in the works for three years, and is now available and coming to Sunday School classrooms in a Mennonite church near you.

The new Sunday school curriculum Shine: Living in God’s Light for fall quarter 2014 is now available from MennoMedia and Brethren Press, the publishing houses of the Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.

New Anabaptist curriculum Shines

The article explains the importance of one of the aspects of this curriculum – the spiritual formation of children:

Why is spiritual formation for children important, and why do you call it that now instead of “Sunday school”?
Sunday school indicates a school model based on acquiring information. We certainly want children to become biblically literate, but we hope for something much deeper. Spiritual formation happens in vibrant communities of God’s Spirit. One of the things we try to convey is that children’s natural language of prayer is thanksgiving. They need to experience joy and hope. Children also need to know that God walks with us in difficult times. God’s love transforms our lives, so we can show God’s love and call others to follow the Prince of Peace.[2]

To find out what this spiritual formation for children looks like, a link provided to the Shine resource website[3] explains further what will be taught:

Spiritual practices help children to pay attention to God’s activity in their lives, and show them ways that they can shine their light to others.

Engage your children in the language and habits of worship through prayer, ritual, celebration, and silence. Each Shine session has a spiritual practice to teach your group. Student resources will reinforce these practices, helping your children to take these practices with them in their daily lives.

What are some of the spiritual practices that Shine sessions include?

Breath prayer . . . Centering prayer . . . Collage prayer

Examen . . . Giving . . . Grace at meals . . . Hospitality

Intercession . . . Labyrinth . . . Morning and evening prayers

Noticing God in creation . . . Prayer doodling

Reciting scripture . . . Sabbath keeping

Service . . . Silence . . . Solitude . . . Thanksgiving prayers

Walking prayer . . . Whole body prayer . . . Worship

Spiritual practices with children

One of the many Shine curriculum resources is a PDF guide for instructors and teachers on how to make a prayer path labyrinth for the children:

Prayer path (labyrinth)
A prayer path (labyrinth) is referred to in Spiritual practices of several teacher’s guides. Prepare one for your congregation or one per classroom.

The alarming truth is that many of these spiritual formation practices that children are going to be learning in the Shine Sunday School curriculum at Mennonite churches are rooted in mysticism and contemplative spirituality. For example . . .

Breath prayer

“…the practice of breath prayer involves “picking a single word or short phrase and repeating it in conjunction with the breath. This is classic contemplative mysticism.””
Breath Prayer—Not Biblical Prayer

Centering prayer

“Centering prayer is an unbiblical and dangerous practice. It can put a person in an altered state of consciousness and open him up to a spiritual connection that is not in harmony with Scripture.
Instead, we are to seek God in prayers that are non-repetitious, with a focus on God’s word and truth, with an active mind seeking to find the true and living God through the revelation of the Scripture and communion with his son Jesus.
In short, avoid centering prayer and avoid whatever church promotes it.”
Centering Prayer


What is the Ignatian Examen?
Ignatian Examen is an occult visualization technique taught by Ignatius Loyola, who founded the Jesuits in the 16th century. His exercise teaches one to visualize oneself in the presence of Jesus and then interact with Him during his earthly events, e.g., “at the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the cross, and laying Jesus’ body in the tomb.”6 This has one adding content to Scripture from his imagination and opens a person to demonic manipulation (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:8).
Evangelical Mysticism?


“The labyrinth is just another way to perform contemplative or centering prayer.”
– Ray Yungen, LABYRINTHS, Prayer Paths That Promote the Occult


“…like putting the mind in neutral. Contemplatives say it is like tuning into another frequency. New Agers call it different things like a thin place, sacred space, ecstasy; whatever it is called, both New Agers and Christian leaders are telling us we must practice silence and stillness if we really want to know God.”
The Altered State of Silence

In conclusion, instead of practicing labyrinth prayer paths and the Ignatius Prayer Examen, perhaps it’s time for Mennonites to examine some very important questions. Where are the watchmen on the walls? How many parents dropping their children off at Sunday School in their Mennonite churches will be aware that the new Shine curriculum will teach them how to practice contemplative spirituality? What will become of each three year old child whose parents faithfully bring them to their trusted church to be trained in a 10 year contemplative curriculum? Is this what Sunday School teachers in Mennonite churches want to be teaching to the children in their care? Who will defend and teach the truth? Who will guard and teach the children?


Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.
Vladimir Lenin

And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.
Mark 9:42

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6


[1] http://mbherald.com/2014/09/
[2] http://mbherald.com/new-anabaptist-curriculum-shines
[3] https://shinecurriculum.com


Mennonites and St. Ignatius

Mennonites Teaching Contemplative Spirituality to Children

Anabaptists and Jesuits – Lest We Forget


Understanding The Jesuit Agenda and the Evangelical/Protestant Church

The Labyrinth Journey: Walking the Path to Fulfillment?

McLaren’s New Book – A New Kind of Year Long Church Curriculum

Muddy Emerging Convergence in Sunday School Curriculum

More Centering & Meditation Mennonite Resources

The Way of the Child[1] for children is part of the contemplative COMPANIONS IN CHRIST series from The Upper Room. It was created by Wynn McGregor who completed the two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation at The Upper Room and ‘had a vision to engage children in spiritual practice.’ Focusing on spiritual formation, The Way of the Child teaches children practices to help them experience God’s presence by slowing down and listening to the inner voice.

The Way of the Child can be found on the Mennonite Church Canada resource website[2], as can the Companions in Christ series by Upper Room.[3] The Upper Room is a religious organization that promotes contemplative spirituality and is the creator of a meditation tool called Walk to Emmaus.[4]

The following is an overview of The Way of the Child from Faith Christian Books.


Meeting the needs of children’s spirituality, Way of the Child, provides a contemplative and formulaic approach to providing resources that both teach the Bible and the basics of faith. In a world where we are always rushing to get from one place to another, Way of the Child offers a calming, centering, meditation style, which deepens a child’s connection to God. What is The Way of the Child? What is spiritual formation? What happens during the sessions? What can I do to support the study? How can our family – together – share our faith in practical ways? … “Children are spiritual beings who come to us as gifts from God,” writes McGregor. “The child’s natural way of life and the way most of us live seem to be two different orders of reality. Yet the way of the child represents much of what we consider central to authentic Christian spirituality.” … Every family with a child in The Way of the Child program needs a copy of The Family Booklet.

Centering prayer is a type of meditation that is being taught as a popular contemplative Christian practice. It is simply another term for going deep within your center, and has its roots in New Age spirituality and Hinduism. There are dangers in this method of meditation and it is not a practice that should be taught to children, regardless of what it is called or who promotes it as Christian.


[1] Introduction to The Way of The Child (video clips): http://companions.upperroom.org/children
[2] http://resources.mennonitechurch.ca/ResourceView/16/12082
[3] http://resources.mennonitechurch.ca/ResourceView/2/11935
[4] http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=4143


“PRACTICING THE PRESENCE OF GOD” A GROWING CONTEMPLATIVE TREND http://standupforthetruth.com/2013/06/practicing-the-presence-of-god-a-growing-contemplative-trend-2/

The Danger of Centering Prayer http://www.bibleguidance.co.za/Engarticles/Centering.htm

Mennonites Teaching Contemplative Spirituality to Children

Are the Mennonites who are teaching contemplative spirituality to children leading them astray?

In 2005, at a Mennonite Educators Conference workshop, Dr. Sara Wenger Shenk taught child educators to:

“Teach various kinds of prayer: centering prayer with a chosen word such as “Abba” or “shalom” to repeat while quieting one’s spirit and body to listen to God; meditative prayer prompted by a poem, artwork, musical selection that provides a loose structure within which children can ponder the mysteries of life, their commitments…; using a biblical story for guided meditation, pausing to ask prayerful questions that invite imaginative engagement at various points in the story”

Source: How do we cultivate faithfulness in children?
Mennonite Educators Conference
September 22-24, 2005
Workshop: Practices for Nurturing Children in Faith 
Presenter: Dr. Sara Wenger Shenk http://www.emu.edu/seminary/resources/practicessws.html

The primary source for ideas in this workshop was a book called Real Kids: Real Faith—Practices for Nurturing Children’s Spiritual Lives by Karen Marie Yust[1]. Since then, the ideas in this book have captured the imagination of other child educators. In 2011, this same book by Yust (among others) was used as a reference source for an article about children and contemplative prayer in The Mennonite. Here is an excerpt…

“there has been an increased recognition that children in our society have an intense yearning for silence and meditation (see Real Kids Real Faith by Karen Marie Yust). There is also a growing understanding that children have the capacity to enter the meditative silence of various spiritual practices and often with greater ease than some adults. The keys to helping children enter these practices are creating space and providing them with the tools and understanding necessary to connect with God in prayer. 

Many prayer practices are being recommended for children, for example: centering prayer, guided meditation, journaling, listening prayer, the examen and mindfulness. Some educators, such as Ivy Beckwith, have explored the benefits for children of adding deep breathing to their prayers in order to develop a rhythm for centering prayer, or using a prayer rope to occupy their hands and minds as they engage in the Jesus prayer (see Formational Children’s Ministry by Ivy Beckwith)”[2]

Source: 2011-09-01 ISSUE:
Children and prayer
Ways to help us see ourselves and our children as whole beings who pray with our bodies.
by Carrie Martens http://www.themennonite.org/issues/14-9/articles/Children_and_prayer

Carrie Martins is still interested today in helping children learn contemplative spiritual formation. Her website (www.carrielmartens.com) promotes many contemplative links. One of these is the First Steps Spirituality Center[3], where children from babies to teens can learn about the labyrinth, or practice breath, sensory, and contemplative prayer with interactive prayer beads, holy listening stones, or by reading a ‘breath prayer book’ called Child of God, Child of Light by founder Rev. Leanne Hadley. Carrie Martins’ favourite author list includes Ivy Beckwith, Marjorie Thompson, Richard Rohr, Adele Calhoun, and Joyce Rupp, some of whose contemplative teachings are considered by many Christians as New Age paganism.

Martins says she loves the Mennonite Church Canada Resource Centre[4] which offers many sources to help teach families and children contemplative prayer. These include the above mentioned child educator contemplatives, Karen Marie Yust[5], Ivy Beckwith[6], and various materials on centering prayer[7] and monastic traditions[8] for children.

As these Mennonites teach such practices to children, what direction are these little ones being influenced to walk in?

Ivy Beckwith, who has explored the benefits of centering prayer and deep breathing for children (as Carrie Martins mentioned in The Mennonite), spoke at the “Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity” conference in May 7-10, 2012 in Washington, D.C. Other speakers included emerging church leaders Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, Jim Wallis, and over 50 other influential leaders in Christian formation.[9] The Gather Round Sunday school curriculum (www.gatherround.org), co-published by Brethren Press and MennoMedia, was one of the co-sponsers at this emergent conference. Attendees represented Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Church Canada, and Mennonite Church USA.

This month, Ivy Beckwith will be speaking at Faith Forward (May 19-22) in Nashville, TN.[10] Other speakers[11] include emergent leader Brian McLaren, ‘thin places’ Lilly Lewin, ‘recovering fundamentalist’ Melvin Bray, and ‘the great emergence’ author Phyllis Tickle.

Is this where contemplative spiritual practices and meditation will lead the children? Into the welcoming arms of emergent teachers of ‘the new kind of Christianity’ who want to influence the minds and hearts of the next generation?[12]

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Matthew 18:6

End Notes:

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Real-Kids-Faith-Practices-Nurturing/dp/0787964077
[2] http://books.google.ca/books?id=pnkniUw7aCEC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
[3] http://www.1ststeps.net/Home/tabid/615/Default.aspx
[4] Top Ten Reasons I LOVE the Mennonite Church Canada Resource Centre http://www.carrielmartens.com/2014/05/top-ten-reasons-i-love-mennonite-church.html
[5] Karen Maire Yust: http://resources.mennonitechurch.ca/ResourceView/2/6471
[6] Ivy Beckwith: http://resources.mennonitechurch.ca/QuickSearch?maker=Beckwith%2C+Ivy
[7] Journey to the Heart: Centering Prayer for Children by Frank X. Jelenek
This simple, colorful, practical book uses rhyme and illustrations to teach children how to practice prayer of the heart, contemplative prayer, or “centering prayer.” Ideal for parents, teachers, educators – and children ages 3-10. http://resources.mennonitechurch.ca/ResourceView/2/13599
[8] The Busy Family’s Guide To Spirituality: Practical Lessons for modern Living From the Monastic Tradition by David Robinson (lessons from the rule of St. Benedict and the Benedictine traditions) http://resources.mennonitechurch.ca/ResourceView/2/12458
[9] Gather Round cosponsors conference on children and youth, June 6, 2012. http://mennomedia.org/?Page=7247
Gather ’Round co-sponsors conference on children and youth http://www.brethren.org/news/2012/gather-round-cosponsors-conference.html
GATHER ‘ROUND CURRICULUM COSPONSORS MAJOR CONFERENCE http://www.mennoniteusa.org/2012/03/27/gather-round-curriculum-cosponsors-major-conference/
[10] http://faithforward2014.sched.org/list/descriptions/
[11] http://faithforward2014.sched.org/directory/speakers
[12] Q&A with Brian McLaren http://www.childrenswork.co.uk/main/article/brianmclaren


Why centering prayer should not be taught to children http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?p=797

MINDFULNESS GOES TO KINDERGARTEN by Marcia Montenegro http://christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_MindfulnessForChildren.html

OUT OF YOUR MIND: MEDITATION AND VISUALIZATION (Guided Meditation) http://christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_Meditation.html

THE LABYRINTH: A WALK BY FAITH? Concerns About the Christian Use of Labyrinths by Marcia Montenegro http://christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_Labyrinth.html