Congregation members of the American Lutheran Church on K Street are giving back to the whole community with a prayer garden and labyrinth.
Pastor Brian Julin-McCleary and members Jean Schleif and Mary Kay Deger gave this reporter an in-depth tour of the garden and labyrinth located at the northeast side of the property.
“We started with trees and shrubs along the north side of the church then expanded by adding a meditation garden toward the east,” said Schleif.
The garden and labyrinth were the brainchild of Schleif, Deger, and Pastor Brian. Every plant was chosen carefully with purpose as the planning and planting process moved forward.
For the garden, flowering shrubs and plants with white flowers were placed along the spiraling design of the rock path. This color was picked for the garden to reflect the peace and calmness the garden would provide.
Snapdragons, rose of Sharons, a miniature butterfly bush, and daisies are just a few of the flowering plants that adorn the garden. Among the plants are also bird baths for the feathered visitors to bathe and drink. Berry producing plants run along to the west of the garden north of the church and provide sustenance for the birds as well as spring flowers and color to the area. 
Already, the garden has become a hub for butterflies, honey bees, and other welcome critters as well as some hungry visitors. One small bush had a visit from what appears to have been a hungry deer who stopped by the garden for a tasty snack. However, it ate only one plant and left the rest alone to flourish.
Several young trees were planted on the border of the garden. Although only about five feet in height now, they are expected to grow taller and give a relief from the sun.
The stone path is also accented with several miniature rock formations. Pastor Brian commented that although he does not believe it was intentional in the design, it holds some religious significance. He recounted how often places of spiritual importance were marked by stones arranged in manmade formations.
The Celtic Christian tradition inspired Pastor Brian’s interest in adding the labyrinth to the garden. At the beginning of the path there is a plaque that explains how the labyrinth works.
The labyrinth is symbolic of the pilgrimage Christians would take to Jerusalem. Starting from the outside, a pilgrim would walk their way inward to the core repeating a prayer or mantra in a state of reflection or contemplation.
A labyrinth is different from a maze. Instead of many paths with only one correct way through, the labyrinth is a singular path that leads from the outside inward. A bucket of meditation stones rest at the opening of the labyrinth. Those who wish to walk the path may take one of these stones to put their thoughts into and leave at the center of the labyrinth when they are done.
The two benches in the garden were made by Jeff and Cindy Dunekacke, former members of the congregation. The wooden panel on the north side of the garden for now has a temporary sign for visitors to write encouraging thoughts. Eventually the sign will be replaced by a metalwork tree that will bear the names of passed members of the church on its leaves.
Pastor Brian commented that although the garden and labyrinth is on the church grounds, it is not exclusively for the church goers.
“This is for the whole community,” Pastor Brian said. “It’s for anyone to use, whether for prayer, meditation, or just a quiet place to sit.”