Brandon teens build permanent prayer labyrinth


By Woody Woodrick

Advocate Editor

BRANDON — It’s not a maze, although it sort of looks like one, but some think its impact on the community could be amazing.


Crossgates United Methodist Church is now home to what is believed to be just the second permanent prayer labyrinth in Mississippi. Dedication ceremonies were held Oct. 8.


“I hope it will be used for spiritual growth,” said Mallory Storm, one of four teens who built the labyrinth. “I hope people will take advantage of this project. I’ve already seen a ton of people out here.”


A prayer labyrinth is a tool for prayer and meditation. Users follow a circuitous path from the outside to the center and then back out, praying as they walk.


Storm, Collette Usry, Nick Usry and Caitlin Price built the labyrinth as a scouting project. The young women were working toward their Gold Awards as part of Girl Scout Troop 267, while Nick Usry worked on it as his Eagle Scout project. Collette and Nick Usry are brother and sister.


The teens said they were trying to decide on a project when one of their mothers spoke to Crossgates associate pastor the Rev. Rwth Ashton, who suggested the labyrinth.


They admit the project took longer than expected. Planning began more than a year ago, but Storm said it would sometimes take prompting by one of the mothers to move things along. “When my mother would get mad (at the lack of progress), we’d have a meeting,” she said. “Then one of the other mothers would get mad, and we’d meet again.”


They thought they might have it ready last fall, but Hurricane Katrina struck. Crossgates served as a Red Cross shelter, pushing back work on the labyrinth. In addition, some materials weren’t as readily available. However, during the past several weeks, work stepped up and the project was completed.


The teens got plenty of help along the way from their parents — Cory and Paula Usry, Danny and Susan Price and Steve and Bebe Storm — Ashton, Crossgates’ United Methodist Men and United Methodist Women, Pioneer Sunday School Class, Pacesetters Sunday School Class and Lakeland Yard & Garden Center.


Each teen took charge of one aspect of the project. Storm, an 18-year-old freshman at Hinds Community College, figured out the design and dimensions. “My dad helped me because I’m not that good at math,” she said with a laugh.


After doing some research, Storm selected an ancient chartres design which requires 11 circuits around the path to complete.


Collette Usry, 16 and a student at Brandon High, painted the lines and center, and Price stained the concrete, an area 40 feet in diameter, before and after the paint was applied.

Price, also a 16-year-old Brandon High student, said just working on the project brought her a sense of peace. “I would be working on it about six hours a day,” she said. “In this circle of trees it was so peaceful.


“When I was out working one day, some ladies came out and wanted to walk. We weren’t finished, but they walked it anyway. You could see that they felt the presence of God.”


Nick Usry cut down a tree and cleared the area, which is located among stately oaks just west of the Crossgates children’s facility. “There was a big tree in the center that we cut down, so it took a while,” he said. “I started in October and finished in early January. I worked on it when I had time. I was pretty busy with school.”


After clearing the land, Nick Usry had more work to do. “I built the foundation, and several friends helped spread the concrete,” he said.


Other friends of his got involved when they placed benches around the labyrinth as part of a senior class project.


The young women said they first estimated the cost at $2,000 but figure it wound up costing about $7,000 to build the labyrinth.


While the teens have finished their plans, they say the area around the labyrinth is ripe for more improvements. “This is very much a working project,” Storm said. “There is so much more than can be done.”


Nick Usry said he’s proud of the work the group did. “It gave me a good sense of accomplishment; something to be proud of that I had a big part in,” he said. “I’m glad I could provide that for people to come and reflect.”