Paul Meier, pastor of East Hill Friends Church in Kent, stands on the woodland trail his church has created. The trail, constructed for meditation, is open to all.
Meditation is good for the soul. It can also be good for the bank account, as one Kent church recently discovered.
The East Hill Friends Church decided last summer to create a meditation trail on three acres of wooded land behind the church building, at 22600 116th Ave. S.E.
Thanks to that trail, the church received a property-tax exemption of more than $2,000 from the county this year for that 3-acre lot, according to church treasurer Yvonne Kirkland.
“Now we get to pay $13 – if you round up – for the whole year,” Kirkland said.
The $13 is for a 3-foot strip of land that sticks out from the woodland into the church parking lot, which doubles as a park-and-ride lot. The church earns a small fee for use of the lot, so that area doesn’t count as tax exempt. Not that anyone at the church is complaining.
Church member Jim Teeters came up with the idea of a meditation trail. He said he was inspired by a visit last year to a Japanese garden in Olympia, which featured a similar sort of pathway.
The meditation trail is short – only 900 feet for the U-shaped main trail – but feels longer due to nine little paths branching off from the main one. Each side trail leads to a tiny clearing with a bench, where walkers can stop for rest, prayer and contemplation.
The offshoot trails each feature a wooden marker engraved with a different “fruit of the Spirit” from Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Since a different church member or family worked on each station, no two are quite alike, as witnessed by the eclectic assortment of benches — one a store-bought iron-frame park bench, another hand-made wood, another gray plastic – and in one clearing no bench at all, but instead a ring of tree stumps.
So far, the trail has taken about six months to create, Teeters estimated.
A tri-corner kiosk, built by Auburn resident Rich Frishholz, was installed April 7 at the entrance to the trail.
The kiosk holds pamphlets explaining the trail’s purpose and giving brief descriptions of each of the nine virtues. The pamphlets also bear the trail’s name: the Dave Kirkland Memorial Meditation Trail, named in memory of Yvonne Kirkland’s late husband.
With the installation of the kiosk, the main phase of trail work is complete, although Teeters was quick to say that “there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
“We’re going to slowly try to get rid of invasive plants,” Teeters said, mentioning as an example the climbing ivy that had overrun the “Patience” station area.
Come summertime, Teeters said that the church will use some of its tax-exemption savings to hire a teenager to maintain and supervise the trail.
It takes only 10 minutes or so to walk the whole trail, including the offshoots. Someone who stops to sit for a few minutes at each station will complete the walk in closer to a half hour, Teeters said.
“A meditation walk is just a slow walk where, in a Christian sense, you open your heart to God,” he said, adding, “If you go really slow and sit down (at each station) … by the end of the trail you’re feeling really peaceful.”
And while the trail likely will be used primarily by the church’s members, Teeters emphasized that it’s open to everyone.
“That’s the whole idea,” he said. “Anyone from the community who would like to take a walk can come.”
For more information about the meditation trail or the East Hill Friends Church, call the church office at 253-859-5060.
Contact Christine Shultz at 253-872-6600, ext. 5056, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.