Taize 2009

Taize ian sign.jpgThe trip this summer to Taize was extraordinary and made a deep impression on me.
I’ve been trying to write something about it since my return but have struggled to adequately express the experience(s) I had living and worshipping as part of the community. I read something that Archbishop Rowan* said though and I think he may have captured the essence of what Taize evoked in me. Rowan is quoted** as saying that Taize is a place where a christian can say “I have seen the church for the first time
It sounds crazy to have found silence, worship, deep community and such a powerful expression and experience of the church, when there were over 4000 of us as guests of the brothers, but that’s what is was like.
Taize front 300.jpg
A Taize day involves being up in time to be in church ready for the morning service at 08:15. Like all the services there is silence ahead of entering the church and this is maintained until the simple worship chants in different languages begin. There is prayer, the word, and a length of silence and more chants. The morning service also involves communion.
From there it’s into the queue for breakfast (thankfully being a long term Greenbelter meant a queue of 4000 didn’t phase me). From breakfast it was off to Bible Study with the brothers, always humbling, inspiring and exciting in equal measure. Midday prayers then a simple lunch. The afternoon is for work duties (everyone who visits Taize is involved in the practical life of the extended community) and small groups. These international small groups that meet to pray and discuss the Bible study are a great place of sharing, learning, understanding and often, laughter.
There is afternoon Taize meal.jpgtea and cake then some free time before the evening meal.
Evening worship is an especially beautiful time in the church and although the actual service only lasts an hour or so the worship often continues on until Midnight with people either singing or sitting in silence, others head towards the back to talk with the Brothers. For those not still in church, the cafe bar is open (‘Oyak’) and there is a real buzz from the music, laughter and conversation.
Reflecting though on the elements that make it so significant in terms of faith and faith-experience though, this is my attempt at prising apart the various components into some sort of list.
The worship: Profound, beautiful and accessible, services which both drew you in and took seriously your responsibility in worship and prayer. The inclusion always of an extended time of silence was central, a chance to listen, pray, be and encounter God.
Simplicity: A rhythm of living and worshipping which was refreshing to be part of. The joy of a simple meal in the company of people from all over the world.
Ecumenism: At Taize the different traditions and denominations are somehow honoured in a very real way but at the same time the differences seem to fade into the background.
Young People: The vast majority of people visiting Taize are between 15 and 30 years old. Their energy, passion and joy is quite something to be part of. The group from Oxford Diocese were a joy to be at Taize with..
The Brothers: The example, teaching, wisdom and Godliness of the brothers was just a delight. They live what they teach and they embody what they believe. (As a community, as well as their normal giving and work on projects among the worlds poor, if they have any money left at the end of the year … they give that away too).
Internationalism: There is a real Kingdom experience and outworking when there are people from around 80 different nationalities living and sharing together.
Taize candles.jpg
There’s more that I could write but these are I think the main elements that jump to mind. For me it was a remarkable retreat and has had a deep impact on me; in my prayer life, on my ability to embrace stillness and in seeking a rhythm in life.

I’m hoping that we’ll take a party from the Diocese again in 2010

I therefore have a whole year to sell the idea that going to church 3 times a day, basic food, and working hard is a REALLY great thing to do. Fortunately the young people on the trip can testify to the fact that absurd as the description sounds …….. that’s IT, and it is extraordinary!
*He was there the week after the Oxford group
** Church Times p5 14th August

4 Replies to “Taize 2009”

  1. It sounds a very spiritual place..I think I would love it… my mothers closest friends during my childhood were members of an order, the Bernardines…some of our holidays were at a retreat House Hyning Hall near Carnforth.I have strangely fond memories of attending early morning prayers, listening to the psalms, washing up after meals and then running wild with my sisters in the amazing gardens.
    Thanks for sharing the experience of Taize.

  2. It sounds wonderful – I have very happy memories of retreats like this as a teenager but struggle to see my own yps engaging with this. Perhaps I am underestimating their capacity for stillness!

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