I'm not sure how many years it has been since Gloucester Cathedral took to hosting a labyrinth in August - nor how many times I've made the journey there for a Taize service at the end of a long day...
Each year, it seems to be the prayer experience I most need.
Each year, I take away something different from this precious encounter.
This week, at the end of a rather stress filled first day back at work, it brought me peace and reassurance in ways I would never have dared to imagine.
That morning at Mass,having heard the parable of the workers in the vineyard, I'd said something about our incorrigible tendency to judge ourselves in comparison to our neighbours...to consider their triumphs and disasters mostly in relation to our own journeys, to lose track of the beauty of our own surroundings and the grace that we are offered because we are too busy looking over our shoulders to check that our fellow travellers haven't had a better deal.
That evening, I was given a wonderful encouragement to focus on my own journey and never mind what my fellow travellers were getting up to.
Walking a labyrinth in company is always a potentially anxious task for me.
I worry that I will adopt the "wrong" pace, that if I fall over my own feet or wobble as I turn a corner, I will somehow make things harder for anyone walking nearby.
I worry that I'll be in the way, that I'll want to spend too long in the centre....
Or at least that has often been my experience in the past.
This time, though, was quite different.
Yes, I was very much one of a group (more people there than in past years), seeking to cover the same ground, following the same pathway with the same intention....but instead of anxiety that there might not be space enough for us all, that somehow we would hinder one another, I found myself drawing strength and inspiration from those who walked around me.
There was the buttoned up bachelor, taking his shoes off hesitantly, self conscious as he began his journey in black stockinged feed
The small boy, keen to whizz round at his own pace ,but equally determined not to upset anyone else, who gave me a radiant smile as, whispering, I invited him to overtake
The woman who lives nearby, someone with whom I'd shared significant moments in our respective faith journeys....how lovely to find her walking that same path
And M., the wonderful priest whose ministry had so inspired me when I worked with him during my training. As I walked, I remembered sitting cross legged on the floor of his inner-city church, singing Taize chants quietly by the light of a single candle - and the blanket of peace that had fallen over me
There were many others too...but there was space enough for us all
When I reached the centre, I sat for a while, as the chant continued around me....gaining strength and confidence as other voices grouped around me, lending me courage and assurance by their presence....my felow-travellers, whose pilgrimages matched my own"Bless the Lord, my soul, who leads me into life"