Sunday, 2 March 2014

For the love of Taize

In a couple of weeks we welcome one of the brothers of the Taizé community to join us in an evening of prayer at the church here. In an attempt to explain to others here just why this small corner of Burgundy is so important to me, I wrote the following for the church magazine. I share it here too, just in case anyone reading this hasn't heard me wax lyrical about this subject often enough ...

Many of you already know that the Taizé community is dear to my heart and a place that has played a hugely significant role in my journey so far. I don’t know where I would be without it, but it’s fair to say, probably not here. 

I want to begin by clarifying that although Taizé is often primarily associated with a particular style of music, it is about a whole lot more than that. Taizé had been getting things right for quite a while before they invented the Taizé chant. It is not, either, just about a particular way of praying. Although I do think it boils down to the centrality of that prayer. There are no compromises on the importance of prayer. Even on busy summer Sundays when up to 4000 people might be leaving and the same number arriving, the information point closes during prayer. Even the vending machines switch off during prayers.

And while it is not just about a style of prayer; it is about an understanding of prayer that much of the church would do well to heed. Prayer is not about lots of words telling God what we think he should be doing. It’s about stopping, listening and allowing Him to take us places we’re not sure we want to go. It is about allowing the whisper of unconditional love to shout louder than all the surrounding noise. Taizé’s rediscovery of the importance of silence, and their ability to make it accessible to all is an important gift to the wider church, should they choose to accept it.

I don’t just go to Taizé for the prayer. I go too for the sense of community, the shared meals with people from all over the world, the perceptive insights in bible introductions, the belief in the possibility of a meaningful ecumenism, the possibility of deep sharing with people you have only just met, the sharing in the work that makes the community run smoothly, the simplicity of life where it doesn’t matter that  I can’t check my emails.

But it still all comes back to prayer. Everything else works because it flows out of that absolute commitment to being open to listening to God. It enables the trust which hands over much of the running of the place to those who arrived a couple of days earlier under the supervision of young people who arrived only a couple of weeks before. It enables the trust which encourages each individual to take the implications of the gospel seriously without trying to make it more palatable to our western sensitivities. It enables the trust that hands over a gospel that says you are loved regardless, knowing that implicit is the challenge to go and live a life radically altered by that experience.

Taize is a place where I have been allowed to experience the consolation of the gospel so palpably that I have perhaps dared to face the challenge of the gospel just a little bit more than I might have done otherwise. And I am very grateful.

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