TLS Members e-Newsletter

Members eNewsletter
At least four times a year, TLS members are rewarded at their inboxes with a copy of the Labyrinth Society e-newsletter. It serves as a means of direct communication with the membership and provides an historical record of the Society.

Houston Students Follow a Sacred Path to Learn About The World and Themselves

The following is a report from Reginald Adams, TLS member from Houston. His project this summer, 'Sacred Sites Quest: International Exchange,' we are proud to say, is a TLS Special Project and was funded in part by TLS. Your member dollars at work, here and abroad!

What is the best way to learn about another country and its culture? Visit that country of course! A group of Houston-area high school students did more than that on their trip to France, from June 7-15, as part of their participation in the Sacred Sites Quest: International Exchange (SSQ:IE). With sponsorship from Schlumberger and SEED, the Texan French Alliance for the Arts, ECAM Lyon Graduate School of Engineering and The Labyrinth Society Special Projects Fund, the group built a labyrinth on the grounds of the Basilique de Notre-Dame Fourvière, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Lyon. “We wanted to create something that would last, would fit the site and would invite reflection,” said Reginald C. Adams, an artist who works in public spaces and the founder of SSQ:IE. The result, added SEED Program Manager Richard Stowe, was a fascinating look at another culture and a project that will leave a lasting legacy.

SSQ at Eiffel

SSQ at the Eiffel Tower
Photo: R. Adams 

The SSQ:IE program encourages students from Houston to learn about other cultures and sacred spaces, and to share their creative abilities with other countries. It grew out of the Sacred Sites Quest (SSQ) program (part of the Boniuk Institute of Rice University). SSQ introduces high school students to the idea of sacred spaces among different religions and cultures in the Houston area over the course of a school year.

After completing the SSQ program, the students were invited to participate in the international exchange. During the spring, they learned about labyrinths, which have a single path to the center, rather than the twists and dead ends of a maze. They visited the labyrinth on the site of the former prayer garden of the Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church in Houston’s Freedman’s Town, built the previous year as part of the SSQ program. With the help of labyrinth facilitator, Jay Stailey, a classical five-circuit design was chosen, and the group agreed to use long-lasting paving stones that are easily found in France. With all planning completed, on June 7th the 12 SSQ:IE students, plus three children of Schlumberger employees, and 13 adults including Adams, Stailey, and Stowe, took off from Houston.

After landing in Paris, the group began to acquaint themselves with France. Up first was a day trip to Amiens and its famous Gothic cathedral, which includes a labyrinth as part of the floor of the main vault. The next day the group saw the famous sights of Paris, with a cruise down the Seine and a stop at the Eiffel Tower. They also toured the Schlumberger offices in Clamart, where they learned how engineers test and design oil-drilling tools. On the following day the SSQ:IE group went to Chartres Cathedral, which also has a labyrinth laid into its floor. From there the group traveled to Lyon, to get ready to build.

As they traveled around, the Houston students began to home in on the differences between France and the US. “I think they liked how laid back everyone was, compared to Americans, who are always in a hurry,” noted Stowe. This was especially notable at meal times, which took up to two hours. The students were also intrigued by the different foods such as foie gras, crepes, and traditional apple cider. 

Setting out the pattern.
Photo: R. Adams

Once the group reached Lyon, the focus was primarily on the labyrinth they were building. As arranged, the SSQ:IE team met with students from ECAM to develop a plan for the work. The next day, work on the labyrinth began. Everyone pitched in, laying out the plan, digging shallow trenches in the grass for the stones. “It was hard work,” Stowe acknowledges, “but everyone pulled together and had fun.” The workdays were broken up with sightseeing in and around historic Lyon.

The stones!

Unloading the stones. Photo: SSQ

As the labyrinth neared completion, the students personalized some stones, writing their names and the date the stone was put in the ground. After three days the installation was completed. A dedication ceremony was held the next day, with the ECAM students and officials in attendance.

Done! Photo: R. Adams

As the trip ended, the students reflected on their experiences. “I’m excited to be leaving a legacy in another community, another country, and to have met new people,” said 14 year old Jahlani Adams, “It was a great way to spend part of my summer.”

Watch the ABC13 Cross Roads interview with Reginald Adams and Kaden Lewis, talking about their trip.