Renewing power of prayer

At site of Memorial Stadium, public area for thanksgiving dedicated

November 21, 2006|By Liz F. Kay .. | Liz F. Kay ..,Sun reporter

A lot of prayers were said at Memorial Stadium when it was home to the Colts and Orioles, and many of them were even answered.

The demolished stadium has given way to Stadium Place - a senior complex that answered the prayers of many of Baltimore's elderly in need of affordable housing.

Yesterday, community religious leaders came together to dedicate a public space on that site devoted to prayer for sports victories, better homes or any other yearning that crosses the penitent's mind.

ThanksGiving Place's arbors, gardens and labyrinth serve as a gateway from 33rd Street to Stadium Place, which also includes the city's newest YMCA and a playground. The prayer and meditation space is a joint project of the Govans Ecumenical Development Corp. and the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council.

"We hope that this place will connect the past with the present, with the future," said Tom Stoner, co-founder of the TKF Foundation, during the ceremony.

The Annapolis-based nonprofit, whose mission is to create open, sacred spaces, provided a $200,000 matching grant to the project. The 1-acre project cost almost $500,000, said Stadium Place's president, the Rev. John Sharp.

ThanksGiving Place chairwoman Susan P. Macfarlane said the group was inspired by Thanks-Giving Square in Dallas, which was established more than 30 years ago with a similar interfaith mission. A statue dedicated to thanksgiving also stands in Northern Ireland's Thanksgiving Square in Belfast.

Giving thanks "opens our eyes ... to be able to see more of the wonderful bounty and love and goodness of what God has already done and what God is already surrounding us with all the time," Macfarlane said.

"It's important to give gratitude, even in the darkest times," she said, quoting the founder of the Irish monument.

The structure "honors those people that fought out on the field of play at Memorial Stadium. It speaks to the history of this great city," Stoner said.

A model of Memorial Stadium will be placed in a garden dedicated to renowned sports broadcaster Chuck Thompson, Sharp said. A marker constructed from original stadium bricks will guide visitors' eyes toward the former site of home plate.

The park uses no specific religious imagery beyond an adapted phrase from the Book of Psalms: "Enter this gate giving thanks and into this place with praise."

The ecumenical council has voted to provide an employee to organize programs and show people how to use the labyrinth in a contemplative way. Labyrinth walking is an ancient meditation tradition in many cultures.

A bench under the curved arbor or pergola near the labyrinth holds a waterproof journal in which visitors can record their thoughts.

By the spring, visitors will also hear music from the bells of the J. Joseph Curran Sr. Memorial Carillon, now at Woodbourne Avenue and York Road. They will be moved into a bell tower at the center of the pergola.

"It's truly a place where people of all faiths will have an opportunity to come and pray and open their hearts to the benefits that God has given them, and be reminded of their responsibility to share those benefits, to nurture the lives of their fellow citizens of Baltimore," said GEDCO's president, the Rev. P. Edward Kenny Jr. of St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church.

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