One of my very favorite things to do is to introduce people to each other or places and resources I am familiar with. It’s a kind of resource brokering whereby I am the conduit that connects people to resources–like sharing good secrets.
Years ago I went to Taize, France to spend a week with the ecumenical community there. My first trip was for me– to see, to learn, to experience what the brothers call a “parable of community.” I traveled with other young adults from my wider church, and we were pilgrims together.
Two years later, I organized a Pilgrimage for Unity that brought together 14 American young adults and myself. We spent our first week in Geneva, Switzerland getting an orientation in ecumenism, visiting with various leaders in the World Council of Churches and seeing the sights of Geneva. Our second week was spent experiencing ecumenism in Taize.
I can’t talk about Taize without talking about its founder and long-time leader, Brother Roger. The Community of Taize was founded by Frere Roger and several of his friends. It was established initially as a way to help refugees escape Nazi Germany and evolved into a monastic community for these young men who believed that Christians everywhere should be united. They settled this small village just a few kilometers from Cluny, France. Over the years they provided hospitality to any one who came their way. People, especially young people, began to seek them out.
They determined to be a witness for peace and community and began sending brothers to live in areas of great strife as a witness to that peace. Young people from all over Europe came to them, so the brothers started teaching them. More young people came from further and further afield. They came by the thousands, and still do.
When visitors come to Taize, they become part of the community. And in order for the community to function, everyone must take a responsibility. Some collect trash, some prepare meals, some clean bathrooms–everyone does something. The weekly attendance at Taize varies from just the brothers (@100) in the coldest months, to more than 6,000 in the warmest months. Some sleep in tents, some in dorms, some in homes of locals nearby.
Everyone worships. Three times each day, the community gathers for prayer in the Church of the Reconciliation-morning, noon and evening. There is singing, scripture, silence, singing, prayer and more singing. The church has been expanded numerous times to accommodate the crowd, and there are garage-style doors that are automatically opened to expand for the people so that the church always feels intimate no matter how many gather for prayer.
There are times of Bible study, international dialogue, storytelling, and fellowship at Oyak. Volunteers, like interns, come and stay anywhere from two weeks to a year to help the brothers manage all the visitors. They speak multiple languages.
This summer and last, I have had the pleasure of sending a college student to experience Taize on their own. I had hoped I’d have another opportunity to take a group, but so far it hasn’t happened. It may still happen, I haven’t given up the idea. Our student/friend is there this week. He has already fallen in love with it and I am anxious to hear about his adventure.
You may have experienced a little bit of Taize at a worship service in the US, or you may have visited Taize yourself! You may know some of their songs from your own church hymnal or a CD. You can get to know more about the place that Pope John Paul II called “that little springtime” by visiting their website.
In the meantime, I’m giving thanks for:
324. the Community of Taize
325. my travels to Taize
326. the blessing of Frere Roger
327. music of Taize
328. pottery from Taize-especially my communion set
329. memories of the adventures in and around Taize and Cluny
330. the hospitality in Geneva at the WCC
331. lunch at the ceramics museum
332. the stories learned at the International Committee of the Red Cross
333. the Orthodox community in Geneva
334. lives changed by the experience of international travel
335. new generations being impacted by the brothers of Taize