OPINION: The Old Ship Labyrinth

Old Ship Labyrinth: Photo courtesy of Michael Weymouth

August 22, 2022 By Michael Weymouth

For those Hingham residents who have never visited the labyrinth at the Old Ship Parish House, it is a town treasure that is soon to be history, as the Parish House is up for sale. It IS unlikely that a buyer would keep the labyrinth intact which would be a great misfortune. The labyrinth was funded by Hingham resident and philanthropist Mary Niles in 1982 and has provided solace for many local people ever since.

In ancient times a labyrinth was essentially a maze which was designed to confuse those who entered it, but in recent times the more common form is what is referred to as a unicursal maze which is anything but confusing since it consists of a single pathway that when followed slowly is a form of meditation. Labyrinths are often found in medical facilities for this very reason: to provide a means of calm and meditation for people with challenging health issues.

I’m sure much thought has been given to how the labyrinth might be preserved, and yet there are no easy or inexpensive solutions. It seems that the town might weigh in on this subject and perhaps use the Parish House as a center for wellness organizations or a relocated senior center, the centerpiece of which would be the labyrinth.

5 thoughts on “OPINION: The Old Ship Labyrinth”

  1. Bravo Michael Weymouth for citing the treasure of the Old Ship Labyrinth, not
    only to Hingham citizens, but also to those who choose to walk on the beautiful,
    11circuit labyrinth. Made as a gift by philanthropist and institution builder, Mary
    Niles in 1999 to Old Ship, Mary was passionate about the labyrinth. Her intro-
    duction to the labyrinth was a book on the labyrinth left in her post box. Having
    known nothing about it, she set about informing herself and loved the idea of
    the labyrinth as a spiritual tool as a walking meditation. Used since antiquity,
    and popularized during the Middle Ages, the labyrinth offers insights and
    direction to the pilgrim walking on it and most certainly, a sense of calm and
    harmony. As a hostess of scheduled labyrinth events for the last 23 years,
    at Old Ship, I have witnessed over and over again “a coming home” by the

    The Labyrinth at Old Ship is an architectural treasure situated at the Old Ship
    Parish House, now under a Purchase and Sale Agreement with an unknown
    future. We as Hingham citizens and friends of the labyrinth, at the very least acknowledge its beauty and sacred meaning. It stands silently, awaiting its fate.

  2. Moving Forward with The Labyrinth:

    A living, interactive museum and a work of art has been and is standing at the Fellowship Hall of the Old Ship Parish House, 107 Main St., Hingham, MA since 1999. Gifted to the church and wider community by philanthropist and institution builder, Mary Niles at a cost of $100,000. The 11 circuit Labyrinth at Old Ship is an exact replica of the one at Chartres, France built in the 12th century as a spiritual tool by providing a walking meditation generating calm, harmony and insights. The Labyrinth was constructed by the 100 year old firm, Depaoli Mosaic Company and supervised day and night by Old Shipper and now deceased Hingham citizen, Bernie Gregoire for the hazardous effort of the removal of the than existing vinyl floor tiles of Fellowship Hall during the hot, humid August days of that year. The labyrinth is a mosaic floor design based on the ancient symbol of The Spiral or The Devine.

    Since then, many events have taken place and many groups have been served at the Labyrinth such as birthday celebrations, coming of age groups, students of Hingham and Weymouth schools, church youth groups, library groups, elder groups from Marshfield and Hingham, recitations of Rumi (the 12th century poet), New Year’s Eve meditations, monthly walks, peace walks and workshops. More recently, holistic health practitioner, Old Ship member and Hingham resident, Santjes Oomen has been offering sound meditations with chanting, drums and other instruments. These events are attended by large numbers of participants.
    Today, the Labyrinth at Old Ship is poised at the edge of an unknown future with the congregation’s standing decision to sell 107 Main St. – the nearly 3 acre property on which this sacred site stands. It is time to call for and organize a partnership between Hingham citizens, Town government, and the many kind friends of Old Ship. Time for all of us to come together, purchase 107 Main St., and at long last define and make safe the future of the unique and unbelievably generous gift Mary Niles gave all of us, honoring it for the irreplaceable treasure it is.
                                                                                Mary Thomas, Facilitator of the Old Ship Labyrinth, HIngham, MA.

  3. Join us this Fall to Restore, Renew, and Revive! Attend and show your support for our beautiful Labyrinth🥰🙏🌌🌠🥰

    This fall, as the air cools, the light changes, and the leaves turn, join us for a joyful return to the center, to our beautiful trees and labyrinth, here at the Old Ship Parish House. This fall we are hosting three events celebrating health, hope, growth, and wellbeing. This series brings together the skills and talents of four renowned local practitioners, healers, and artists: Moira Congdon, Santjes Oomen, Peter Lochtefeld, and Jen McConnell. Treat your body, mind, and soul to one of the most beautiful and rejuvenating experiences on the Shore Shore, among the sacred groves, celebrating our labyrinth, ourselves, and the joy of being together with our community in this sacred place. If you do one thing for yourself this year, do this:

    Sundays, 5pm. Oct 16, Nov 13, Dec 11. Old Ship Parish House. 107 Main Street, Hingham, MA. 02043
    All are welcome. Admission is free. In love and in protection of ourselves and one another, we ask that everyone wear masks while indoors.

    Oct 16: Stretch, Breath, Focus and Meditative Flow: Join us for a 20 minute twilight session of yoga among our beautiful Copper Beech Trees – led by yoga master Moira Congdon (bring your own mats, dress for outdoor yoga). Moira’s approach to yoga encourages each individual to see themselves as both the artist and masterpiece of their own lives. And that each day, hour, and moment is a new opportunity to care for oneself and the world around them. Her empowering ethic guides beginners and veterans alike – helping them to tap into the power within themselves, and guiding them into a lived practice based on the belief that together we are stronger. This session will be followed by an in-door candlelight labyrinth walk. *Should weather not be accommodating, the yoga session segment will take place indoors.

    Nov 13: Sound Meditation. Join wholistic health practitioner Santjes Oomen and her husband artisan Peter Lochtefeld, in a beautiful spiritual communion of sound and movement. This long held tradition within the local labyrinth community brings the truly mythic beauty and talent of Oomen, Lochtefeld, and their musician circle to the Fellowship Hall once again. Their accompaniment (which includes chanting and the playing of bells, crystal bowls, and drums) is otherworldly and beyond description – and must be experienced to be believed.

    Dec 11: Mindfulness and Metta Meditation. Join us and certified meditation leader Jen McConnell for Metta Meditations, a loving kindness meditation and Buddhist practice oriented to cultivating compassion for ourselves and others through directing loving, positive language, and goodwill. The word Metta is a Pali word often translated as loving kindness. This session, begins with a meditation that then segues into a labyrinth walk, leading us all to a kinder, more collaborative and peaceful place together. The quiet bonds forged through this practice promotes self-compassion, decreases stress and anxiety, reduces physical pain, improves longevity and enhances social connections – nurturing stronger and more positive social relationships.

    • I would like to attend some or all of these events but as I would be travelling for an hour each way would like an email address so I can confirm the event is going ahead nearer the time.
      Many thanks.

  4. Hello Susan,
    My apologies for this very late response to your question. Your interest
    in the Old Ship Labyrinth is most welcomed. For contact, call the
    church administrator, 781-749-1679, Monday – Friday, 9-1. The church
    e-mail is oldshipchurch@gmail.com. We look forward to seeing you at
    the labyrinth meditation walks. Until then, Mary Thomas


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.