It is humbling and exciting to be collaborating with Robert on the service for this week. It will incorporate many of the elements of a Taize service as practiced by the Taize Community in France. When discussing the possibility after a recent service, it was impressive that at least three members of St. Kilda had visited the Taize Community! Tom and I spent time there in May 2019 after attending the wedding of a goddaughter in Beaune France.
I have been a leader for a Taize service in Boulder CO for about 8 years. A contemplative or meditative practice had been a part of my life since I was a teenager, so I was naturally attracted to Taize. I found the combination of readings, silence, chants, and often communion more fulfilling than any of these aspects alone.
The service Tom and I attend is lay – led, expressive of a circle, as opposed to one leader, or one perspective. This allows a diversity of unique voices to share with one another. We emphasize creating a space of stillness and silence. Sitting in silence together is rich and connected If an ordained person wishes to participate as an equal, they are also welcome. We believe we are all ministers.
It was with some trepidation that I journeyed to spend time at the “original” Taize community. Was our practice out of step, or too loose and would be criticized? No. Instead we were met with tolerance and acceptance. We participated in a daily discussion group with English speakers who hailed from mostly European countries and embraced a wide range of beliefs.
There was the atheist gentleman from Germany who had been coming to the Taize Community for several years.
The couple from the Netherlands were extremely conservative Christians.
The Irish ladies were quite Catholic.
We identified as progressive Christians, and soon discovered that the term had quite the opposite meanings in parts of Europe and the U.S.!
Our discussions were civil and respectful despite large differences in perspectives. It was proof that this is possible! Our visit was not typical as there were only several hundred people there in May, and most were adults. We’d love to go back when there are 5,000 teens from all over the world there!
The three daily services were simple, but rich, with the chants sung in a variety of languages. It would be so easy to try to wall such a community off from the world to protect it. Instead, it has practiced boots on the ground social action since its inception. These values as well as their focus on youth is inspirational.
The practice of Taize encourages one to use the peace and inner strength gained from sitting and chanting in community to bring kindness, simplicity, love and acceptance into the world, living the way Christ intended us to live.