Dorchester Presbyterian Church is privileged to own a 42 acre wildlife sanctuary with 3/4 mile of walking trails as part of our church campus. The land was purchased at the very low sum of $12,000 from Westvaco Corporation in 1990 with the understanding that the land would remain perpetually undeveloped as a nature preserve. The wildlife sanctuary adjoins the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site helping to maintain a natural travel lane for wild animals. In 2008, the area that includes maintained walking trails and a prayer labyrinth was named The Richard Custhman Wildlife Sanctuary as Pastor Emeritus Dr. Richard Cushman retired.
The wildlife sanctuary is home to white tailed deer, raccoon, opossum, cottontail and marsh rabbits, gray fox and an occasional bobcat. The preserve has the only remaining original creek bed for the Saw Branch Creek which the Army Corp of engineers turned into a canal in the late 1960's.
As development continues in the area with more and more woodlands giving way to shopping malls and subdivisions, Dorchester Presbyterian Church will maintain the 42 acres of natural wetlands and hardwoods.
Come and take a walk on the trails.
In the Spring of 2008, our confirmation class and their mentors created a Prayer Labyrinth at the edge of the wildlife sanctuary. Judith Kramer, a long time member and elder of Dorchester, and a member of the Labyrinth Society, provided the design. Judith, with the help of her friend, Marcy Walsh, laid out the pattern and the Confirmation Class, as one of their service projects, under Judith's guidance, carefully placed six tons of selected stones to complete the pathway. Limestone was then laid on the path. Judith explains it's use:
"The labyrinth is an ancient symbol used for walking meditation, prayer and ceremony. During the 4,000 years of its known existence the labyrinth's use as a spiritual tool has ebbed and flowed. It is currently enjoying a world-wide resurgence. Over the last decade hundreds of thousands of labyrinths have been installed in churches, hospitals, seminaries, retreat centers, gardens and many of other places where quiet contemplation and prayer are sought.
"A labyrinth is a type of maze. It is different from a puzzle maze in one fundamental way. There is only one way in and one way out. You are meant to follow the path without having to worry about getting lost and the distraction this can cause. The lack of distraction and the ability to focus only on the path in front of you helps to deepen the prayerful, meditative experience.
"There are many types of labyrinths. The most common are variations of the thirteen circuit Chartres Labyrinth, a 12th century labyrinth inlayed in the floor of this ancient cathedral in Chartres, France, mirroring its famous stained glass window. The other is the Seven Circuit Classical Labyrinth, one of which has been recently installed in the woods at Dorchester Presbyterian Church. The Seven Circuit is the oldest form known.
"Walking the labyrinth is as simple as stepping into the entrance, pausing for a moment to slow down and center yourself and then walking the path at a pace comfort able for you. If more than one person is walking simply stepping slightly aside in the path to let them pass is all that is required (be careful not to lose your place!) Silence is usually maintained out of respect for others present.
"There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth, just as there is no right or wrong way to pray. It is helpful though to walk to the center, pause for however long you wish and then follow the path back out, retracing your steps (rather than stepping over the stones to walk directly to the beginning), when you reach the entrance pause again briefly as you exit. This final pause helps you carry the sense of stillness usually experienced while walking a labyrinth back into your everyday life."
Everyone is invited to spend time in quiet meditation, walking the labyrinth in the midst of God's beautiful creation.
One of our youth planned and constructed our outdoor worship space in the Spring of 2009 as his Eagle Scout project. We look forward to many special services here surrounded by God's handiwork.