by Rev. Karyn Richards-Kuan, Associate Pastor
Before St. Paul’s knew me as "pastor," I knew St. Paul's as “a cathedral for the city.”
I moved to Houston from Seattle in July 2015 to be closer to Paul, my then fiancé, now husband. From the apartments at 8181 Fannin where I lived with my two best friends from college, St. Paul’s was the closest United Methodist church to me—just six short stops down the red line. Despite this, every Sunday and most Wednesdays I would drive 45 minutes out to Katy where Paul was a fresh-out-of-seminary associate pastor.
As a pastor’s spouse, I was not actively looking at or interacting with a lot of other churches. Even still, St. Paul’s was somewhat familiar to me because of Project CURATE events that fit within Paul’s and my idea of “having fun on a Saturday morning,” and the fact that it was right across the street from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (as a snobby Seattleite, the MFAH was my scene.)
After events at the museum, Paul and I loved to waltz or skip across the street (depending on our mood that evening) and meander through that labyrinth amidst the nighttime lights and noise of the city. I was amazed to have discovered this place of peace and meditation not separate from but integrated with the movement of Houston. The labyrinth was not located in some inner courtyard of this church but was right at the street corner where it functioned as a third space, the area well lit at night so that meanderers like myself felt welcome in its winding path. More than just a third space, the labyrinth held space for every person in the city who has walked in it or thought of walking in it.
The week of Ash Wednesday I had seen that St. Paul’s was having a mid-day service. St. Paul’s… is that the one near the Galleria… or the one with Rudy Rasmus and the #blacklivesmatter forums…? Oh wait it’s that church with CURATE and the labyrinth,I remembered. I made plans to go to the service and the other midweek communion services in the weeks that followed, making communion the cornerstone of my Lenten discipline.
The rail dropped me off at Binz and San Jacinto, so I walked down Binz and crossed Fannin. At that corner, I found a map describing St. Paul’s grounds, and on that map I realized that the labyrinth was very close to the sanctuary. A perfect space to prepare myself for worship! With Taizé tunes in my headphones, I carefully stepped my way through the familiar labyrinth, reflecting on the incredible changes that had taken place since the last Ash Wednesday when I was not walking an outdoor labyrinth in the middle of Houston but dipping kids’ hands and feet in colorful paint to create the outline of an indoor canvas labyrinth. I was so grateful for the opportunity to center myself, not only looking forward to worship but also looking back at the journey that the Holy Spirit had me swept up in.
Three months later, I received an unexpected appointment as an associate pastor at this very "cathedral for the city," the one with Project CURATE, the labyrinth, and those midweek communion services. It has been such a blessing to be in this place.
Dating back to ancient times, walking the labyrinth promotes contemplation, prayer and spiritual illumination. St. Paul’s 11-circuit outdoor labyrinth on Bankston Green is open every day of the week.