GALVESTON — A spiritual landmark won’t be destroyed to make way for development after all.
The Labyrinth Meditation Garden at 427 Market St. soon will be moved to Moody Methodist Church, 2803 53rd St.
The news was confirmed Friday by representatives of both the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and Moody Methodist.
“The Diocese of Texas is overjoyed that the William Temple Center Labyrinth will have a new home at Moody Methodist,” said the Rev. John W. Newton, executive chairman of the William Temple Center board.
“The labyrinth belongs to the people of Galveston, and it has always existed for the good of the whole community. It has a rich history of being a place of prayer and calm for the island. It makes me proud to know that it will have a rich future at Moody of doing the same.”
While details about how the labyrinth will be moved were unavailable Friday, representatives from Moody Methodist said an area had been laid out to accept the installation.
“We’re very excited,” said the Rev. Randy Robinson, spiritual formation pastor at Moody Methodist. “It definitely fits with what Moody is trying to be as a church — for the community a place of spiritual formation.”
The labyrinth was built in 2001, using an $80,000 donation made by the Rotary Club of Galveston. It is a large stone circle laid into the ground, made up of thousands of individual stone pavers. It depicts a maze-like path that eventually leads to a center spot that looks like a blooming flower or a bursting sun.
Supporters of the labyrinth said it had become a place of meditation not only for island residents, but also for doctors and students at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
The fate of the installation has been in question for more than a year. The garden is on the same property as the William Temple Episcopal Center. The center once was the site of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas’ outreach programs to medical branch students.
However, the building was damaged during Hurricane Ike in 2008, and the diocese moved the center’s programs to the Trinity Episcopal Church and has been trying to sell the building.
While the building has sat mostly unused since, the labyrinth has remained a popular meditation site.
In December, the city’s planning commission was asked by a developer to consider changing the zoning of the property to allow the construction of a retail store. Representatives of the developer said that the labyrinth probably would not be preserved on the site, but that some of the pavers used in the installation might be reused in a sidewalk
Supporters of the labyrinth objected, saying that allowing the redevelopment of the site would result in the destruction of the installation that has been on the island for 13 years.
During a planning commission meeting, labyrinth supporters said it could cost as much as $80,000 to move it.
At Thursday’s City Council meeting, J.T. Bolger, the developer, told the council a solution had been found.
“I know the public had some concerns over the labyrinth and the fountain on the site,” Bolger said. “I’m happy to say that they have found new homes.”
The property is home to a historic Rosenberg fountain, as well as a number of live oaks. All but one of the trees will be moved to a new site, Bolger said.
Bolger said he envisioned placing a dining establishment on the property, though no definite plans were announced.
Kay Sandor, a psychotherapist who leads monthly moonlight meditation walks at the labyrinth, said Friday that she was overjoyed to hear that the labyrinth would survive.
“People were saying that the pavers held all the energy of the people (who) walked it for 12 years now,” Sandor said. “I think I’m a little sad that it had (to) be moved, but I’m really happy that it found a new home.”
Had Moody Methodist or some other organization not stepped in to take the labyrinth, its unlikely the installation would have been saved
City officials said the planning commission and City Council had the ability to keep the property’s existing zoning in place, which would prevent a retail business from being built on the property. However, the city would have little say if a developer wanted to build a different type of building that the area is already zoned for, such as new apartment complex.
The planning commission did try to find some ways to prevent the developer from building certain types of businesses on the spot in the future, such as a liquor store or a gas station. Ultimately, Bolger said he agreed to certain deed restrictions with the Episcopal Diocese that met the approval of the planning commission.
The City Council unanimously voted to approve the zoning change, paving the way for the property to be sold and developed.