By Ned Andrew Solomon
There’s a beautiful, spiritual spot on Glendale Lane in Nashville. It’s a labyrinth, which sits beside a lovely little sanctuary: the Glendale United Methodist Church. Passersby may not notice it, nestled as it is on the left side, surrounded by trees. I never did, as many times as I’ve driven down Glendale Lane on one of my favorite back routes to Franklin Road. Once acquainted with it, the labyrinth began to play a significant role in my life.
For those of you unfamiliar with labyrinths, they are kind of like a maze, but better. Unlike mazes, which are purposefully challenging, meant to ensnare the maze traveler in wrong turns and dead-ends, a labyrinth has one seamless, though often circuitous, path to its center. It is not created to cause anxiety – quite the opposite. It’s intended to be a peaceful, meditative “journey”, a path walked, skipped or danced through from entry to end, and back again.
Labyrinths aren’t new; evidence of them appears more than 4000 years ago, pre-dating the Greek and Roman civilizations. They are not “owned” by a single religion or culture. They exist throughout the world, and luckily for us, there are 33 throughout Tennessee – several in Nashville alone.
I first learned about labyrinths from my life partner, Gina, who one day felt compelled to draw one on a piece of paper. For the next several days, like the Richard Dreyfuss character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Gina filled our house, and journal books, with ever more complex drawings of labyrinths. About a week later we were at the First Center for the Visual Arts, and we “stumbled” upon an exquisite book on labyrinths in the gift shop. Coincidence? Not likely.
Gina, an avid researcher, found a website, labyinthlocater.com, which identified several labyrinths that were within 20 miles of our home in Brentwood. Over the next few months we walked a number of them, at Glendale, at Scarritt-Bennett near Vanderbilt, at Calvary United Methodist in Green Hills, and even one in the expansive back yard of a private residence near the Natchez Trace.
Each has its own personality, and “feel”. They differ in size, and the manner in which the outline of the labyrinth is established – some with stones, others with bricks or tall hedges. The Glendale labyrinth soon became my favorite. It was the smallest of the four we had visited, but also, by far, the most charming.
Gina and I decided on Monday, October 27th to get married the following Saturday, November 1st. We had been best friends for seven years, life partners for the last three, and we just decided it was time. We also knew we wanted to get married in the center of a labyrinth.
Our wedding was a series of “second chances”. The second minister we contacted – Reverend Doctor Dan Rosemergy – was available, and enthusiastic about marrying us. The second jewelry store we stopped into – Natural Selection in Hillsboro Village – had the perfect wedding bands, or at least a wonderfully accommodating owner who was able to get them within 24 hours. The second florist we visited in search of blue hydrangeas for our wedding bouquet – the Kroger in Brentwood – had the sweetest floral manager who went out of her way to fill our order within our limited timeframe. The second restaurant we contacted about having our after-ceremony meal – Mere Bulles in Maryland Farms – was closed for a private party, but offered to open up another table in a separate room just for our small wedding group.
The “second time’s the charm” worked in the labyrinth department too. We first contacted Scarritt-Bennett, whose labyrinth was booked. They were willing to “squeeze” our ceremony in during the early morning hours, for a fee of $1000. At that point I drove over to Glendale United Methodist Church, hoping we could get married there, though neither Gina nor I were members of the congregation. Pulling into the parking lot, I ran into an old friend who was rehearsing for a Christmas play at the Church. She told me I should talk to Reverend Sandra Griggs.
Reverend Griggs was so gracious, excited and open to my request, that I knew in that moment this was the location for us. She was even willing to have the church’s gardener cut the grass on the labyrinth, though we discovered it had recently been done. In exchange, Reverend Griggs asked me to write an article – not knowing that I was a freelance journalist – about our experience, in the hopes that others would “find their way” to what she knew was a lovely location, connected to a lovely, welcoming church community.
November 1st was a gorgeous, sunny, 70-degree day. We – Gina, me, Reverend Dan, our dear friend and witness, Margaret Berrett, and our dear friend and wedding photographer, Lynette Porter – gathered for an opening prayer. We removed our shoes and walked the circumference of the labyrinth, lighting candles and saying prayers at four locations, to honor our four children, our parents, and our relatives no longer living. Gina and I sat on the bench and sang the first two verses of a song I had written, Till the End of Time.
We gathered again at the opening of the labyrinth, and Reverend Dan read another prayer. Then one by one we walked the path, moving slowly toward the center. In the middle, surrounded by stones that read Strength, Peace, Joy, Hope, Wisdom and Love, Gina and I shared sweet thoughts about our lives together, as we had done so many times before at this labyrinth and the others we had had the pleasure of walking, as we waited for Margaret and Reverend Dan to join us.
Once we were all present, Reverend Dan read the lyrics to a favorite song of ours, For You, by Duncan Sheik. More prayers acknowledging the different faiths represented in our union, an exchange of vows and wedding rings – much laughter and tears of joy. Then, one by one, we danced the return path of the labyrinth, said a final exiting prayer at its mouth, and then moved en masse to the bench again where Gina and I sang the last verse of our song.
It was an absolutely beautiful day. The simple wedding bands and bouquet were beautiful too. The Glendale labyrinth was everything we hoped it would be: charming, lovely, welcoming and intimate, and will be forever etched into our minds, and hearts. The after-ceremony meal at Mere Bulles was delicious too, and the perfect cap to a perfect day.
Thank you so much, Reverend Griggs and the good people of Glendale United Methodist. We couldn’t have done it without you!
This article first appeared on the Glendale United Methodist Church website as happy payment for our access to this lovely space.
All images are by Lynette Porter.