Transitioning to 50: A Group Prayer Experience

This ritual was commissioned by Cheryl F. Dudley as a celebration of her 50th birthday. It was held on a rooftop in New York City.


Bring the labyrinth up to the roof area in the suitcase it travels in. Ask everyone to form a circle with the labyrinth suitcase in the middle.


…by Cheryl Including Introduction of Labyrinth and Jill.
Goal: Help people get comfortable with the labyrinth.

Introduction of the Labyrinth and This Prayer Ritual

Jill (standing in the midst of the circle with everyone else):

Welcome to our labyrinth rite of passage ritual. Cheryl wanted this to be a time when we would share with one another some of the deeper, and maybe if we are feeling courageous enough, even some of the deepest meanings and possibilities of this time of transition in our lives we call “becoming/embracing 50.”

It’s a beautiful thing that we are all connected by Cheryl’s love for us and our love for her. We are also connected in so many other ways—many of which we don’t even know yet! First of all, we are here because we want to be here to celebrate with Cheryl this important and special day in her life. So let’s start by singing happy birthday to her! (Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Cheryl, may God bless you!”)

In our family we have a tradition of giving other people gifts when it is your birthday. Cheryl is doing that too…she is giving us the gift of entering into our own turning 50-ness by using the labyrinth. Since we haven’t all had a chance to experience a labyrinth before, I want to say a few things about this spiritual tool that has come to mean so much to Cheryl. It is a single pathway that turns on itself before reaching the center. It’s also a symbolic representation of a journey. It’s an ancient tool, but one with many contemporary uses. It can be used by oneself, or in a group. Sometimes people walk it quietly and contemplatively, and sometimes, like today, people walk it with others while they talk about something important.

Today we are starting with the labyrinth canvas folded up. As it is unfolded, it will come to symbolize the transition from the forties phase of our lives to the fifties phase.

Cheryl, I would invite you to the center of the labyrinth. Before we go on I would like to have a little song practice. Let’s learn the tune to “Sanctuary.” This simple song symbolizes what I have heard Cheryl say is the prayer of her heart. I’ll sing a line and you sing it back. (Practice a couple of times.)

As we use this song I invite you to sing it as a prayer on behalf of Cheryl and as it feels aligned, as a prayer for yourself and the rest of us that are here.

Cheryl, you were not the first among your friends to turn 50. So please invite that person into the circle with you and together, please begin to prepare the labyrinth for all of us by doing one simple thing, like unzipping the suitcase. (In the order of our birthdays, we will join Cheryl in the circle one by one and help her prepare the labyrinth.)

Once you have helped to prepare the labyrinth, if you are willing, please say one thing you appreciate about Cheryl .

Cheryl, then you can respond briefly. (Cheryl had brought white scarves with which she welcomed each of us into the sisterhood of fifty.)

Next, if you are in the circle with Cheryl, please say one hope you have for all of us now that we are turning 50.

When you have done that we will respond with the sanctuary song.

Then, please join us back in the outer circle and Cheryl will invite the next person into the center…

Walking the Labyrinth

When the labyrinth is unfolded…

Cheryl, we would like for you to show us the way to the center as you walk the pathway. As you do, please tell us what you have been thinking about this transition from the forties to the fifties.

Cheryl, please stay in the center while in no particular order we walk in towards you. The way we will do that is for each person to walk to a turn and stop. While we may want to hurry through changes and transition, this ritual invites us to slow down and even stop to honor what is different. Once we get to a turn and stop, say a word or phrase that is important to you about turning or being 50. It can be something serious, funny, or anything else. We want to be real about what we are going through and to share it with each other. Once you have said your word or phase, move on to the next turn. When you get there, say whatever is bubbling about being or turning 50 in that moment. Keep moving, stopping, and sharing until you get to the center. Once you are there, give Cheryl a birthday hug and blessing and then take you place back on the outer ring of the circle as others move on the labyrinth.

Returning to the Center Together

When everyone (except Cheryl) is back around the outside of the circle. Let’s go back to the center area and make a circle on the outside of the center.

This is an important time we are sharing. Bill Wither’s Song “Lean on Me” expresses a lot of what we have been saying to Cheryl and in other ways to each other. Who knows “Lean on Me?” Let’s sing it together as a sign of support. And when we get to the parts that say “brother”, feel free to substitute “sister if you would like.”

Final Support for One Another

Cheryl, before you leave the Center, please tell us how we can support you… (or if it seems like things may be flowing in a different direction, “What would you like to say to us?”)

Is there anything that we would like to say to Cheryl or to one another before I offer we offer a closing prayer of blessing?

 Praying Together

One of the beautiful things about becoming elders is that life has given us many opportunities to appreciate how important it is respect where others are coming from while also respecting and embracing our own places of groundedness. Its been a real joy for me to discover that one of the things that people can do together, even when their faith traditions are diverse, is to connect in the experience of common prayer.

If you would like to offer a prayer, please do so.

Let us pray… (Spontaneous prayers…)

Ritual Closing

Together, let us fold the labyrinth back up, knowing that even when we can no longer see it, the memory of this shared pathway will continue to strengthen, encourage and teach us…