by Lee Pritchard
Taizé began as a prayer form in the little village of Taizé, France from an ecumenical community of Brothers founded by Brother Roger Lousi Schutz-Marsauche in 1940. It has been growing in popularity around the world since the beginning. Guidelines for the community’s life are contained in The Rule of Taizé written by Brother Roger and first published in 1954.
Taizé continues to be one of the world’s most important sites of Christian pilgrimage especially for youth and young adults. Data indicates that over 100,000 young people from around the world make these pilgrimages to Taizé each year for prayer, Bible study, sharing and communal work. Because of the community’s ecumenical attitude, young people are encouraged to live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation.
Taizé is a simple and straight forward meditative form of prayer. Participants are invited to repetitive music, scripture, silence and prayers – and in that find stillness and listen to the voice of God. Taizé Music has spawned a unique style of worship that has become popular in churches, retreat centers and seminaries throughout the world. The singing of distinctive and much repeated prayer chants during candlelit prayer services is one of its trademarks. The music highlights simple phrases, often lines from the Psalms or other pieces of scripture, repeated or sung in canon. The repetition is designed to help the individual meditation and prayer.
What about Taizé at New Paltz UMC. Sometime during Bishop Jeremiah Park’s tenure as Bishop of the NYAC he challenged churches during one Lent (perhaps 2007) to provide a Taizé worship each week. We took that challenge and I fell in love with Taizé – the music, the form, the quietness, the scripture, the beauty! After that Lenten season New Paltz began doing a Taizé monthly worship service – the third Wednesday of each month and we continue. I do not believe we have missed a month! Attendance is not huge, however there is a strong group of regular attendees. The worship is led by me at the piano and Margret as the worship leader. The monthly service is based on the worship of the day at the Taize Community – it is current – the prayers and scriptures are the same as you would hear in France that given week. We do pick our own music and chants.
During these past two COVID years the Taizé was on Zoom and Facebook. And we have drawn some new people to the worship form. On a very practical level, Taizé is a calming, quieting, welcome respite from the craziness of this COVID world. On a spiritual level, it is transporting, almost mystical.
Pope John Paul II said of Taizé and the Community, “the traveler stops, quenches his thirst, and continues on his way. The brothers of the community, you know, do not want to keep you. They want, in prayer and silence, to enable you to drink the living water promised by Christ, to know his joy, to discern his presence, to respond to his call, then to set out again to witness to his love and to serve your brothers and sisters.”
And so “Come and fill our hearts with your peace. You alone, O Lord, are holy. Come and fill our hearts with your peace, Alleluia”. Amen.