By Sue McWhinney
What does “Taizé” mean to you? A style of singing, prayerful and reflective chants, a mixed community of Protestant and Catholic brothers in Burgundy, France where thousands of young people meet each summer? It is all of these, and much more, and in July a group of seven from Bradford Diocese went for a week to find out for themselves.
The beauty of life at Taizé is the rhythm of worship, three times a day, when we join the brothers in a church with 3-4000 others, singing beautiful chants in many different languages, quiet and reverent times for prayer and reflection, and soaking up the reality of being part of the worldwide church. The simplicity of worship, Christ-centred, not leader-centred, enables people of any church background or none to engage with it.
The pace of life, following a monastic pattern of regular worship, sharing simple meals, studying the Bible together after a daily reflection from one of the brothers, enables one to slow down, make space for God, listen to him and reflect on one’s life. The theme for each week is explored further in discussion groups, and maybe while doing the washing up together, with people from many different nationalities, fortunately (for us) with English as the common language. It is remarkably easy to talk to anyone about the deeper issues of life and faith, because everyone is on an equal footing, and the ethos of the community is to value everyone for who they are as a child of God, not for “what they do”. The young people had their own groups and activities, where they studied the Bible together and explored life issues, and in the evenings they relaxed at the international young people’s café, making friends and enjoying music. We all had a great week, having met with God at a deeper level and returned home feeling resourced and refreshed.
Some of the comments from the young people: "Taizé is a place where people don’t need to know how high or low your church is or even if you go to church at all, where you can start up conversations with people with no fear of feeling odd or that they will reject you … This is the ideal place to meet with God and to receive from him . . . I've had a life-changing week. I now know deep within how much I am loved and valued by God . . . I’ve learnt not to judge people by exteriors like how they look or speak, but to meet with the real person. A young person’s dad: “she seems so different since coming back from Taizé.”
The Taizé community was founded in 1940 by brother Roger, and is now composed of over 100 Catholic and Protestant brothers from over 30 nations. They have a particular ministry amongst young people and those in need of reconciliation, helping them to meet with Christ, and each other in trust and peace. Many volunteer young people stay for several months in the Taizé community, or work alongside the brothers around the world with those who are poor, vulnerable, marginalised, or wounded by broken relationships.
A week at Taizé qualifies for D of E gold residential, and the year 10 enrichment programme for many local education authorities. School and college groups (aged 16 and upwards) would be particularly welcome next summer for a week anytime from 30 June to 21 July. The diocese is likely to be taking a group from 7-14 July 2013. For further details please contact Sue McWhinney c/o Bradford Cathedral office, 1 Stott Hill, Bradford, DB1 4EH. Tel. 01274 777720. Also see www.taize.fr
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