Thursday, September 06, 2007

Taize and Finding God

Now I am not Roman Catholic, nor am I inclined to become Catholic. I do not identify with veneration of the saints, and even less so with that of Mary as it is practiced in Roman Catholicism. I do not agree with the Mass as a partaking of the literal body and blood of Christ, nor do I find any substance or benefit in the claim of apostolic succession held by Catholic and Orthodox communions, but I did find myself greatly encouraged with my visit to Taize, France and the Communuate.

Brother Roger, a Swiss Lutheran minister, who was killed in August 2005 during a prayer service in Burgundy had developed the Taize community under the goals of serving the poor and abused, and creating a "pilgrimage of trust on earth." This pilgrimage continues to this day under the leadership of Brother Alois, who is a Catholic priest. The community developed as an ecumenical outreach in a very Catholic part of the world, and to this day looks Catholic in its liturgy.

People travel from all over the world to be part of a week of prayer, chanting, and teachings by the brothers of the community. It is primarily geared toward youth, with as many as 10,000 people there during the high weeks of summer. We visited at the last days of August, and there were a mere 2,500 people. This is an amazing number of visitors considering the village of Taize had a population of 161 in the 1999 census.

We were there for three days. Morning, noon and night we participated in the prayer gatherings. Chants sung in up to five languages, prayers in up to seven languages, and a time of silence from 5 to 10 minutes marked the simple service. The basic church building had no chairs - except for a few for the older brothers of Taize who sat in a center aisle. The youth (from 17-25), and the hundred or so adults, sat on the floor, on the steps, or on some benches against the wall.

Once during the day, a teaching time was held with translations in 7 languages going on, and later in the afternoon a discussion was gathered in groups of people speaking the same language. We gathered with a small group which included two school teachers (one from France and one from Germany), a woman from England, and an Englishman who was studying to be an Interfaith Minister. The Interfaith Minister did not call himself a Christian, and shared his misgivings about the Christian faith, which included the absolutist nature of our belief system, and the exclusivity of the message that Jesus is the only way. The rest of the group found thier religious identity in Christ alone, and this created an interesting dialogue with our interfaith friend about subjects such as the nature of evil, and the work of Christ on the cross, although the real focus of our discussions were based upon living in forgiveness toward others.

Bev and I were highly impressed by the simple devotional elements of the Taize Community, the beauty of the chants, and the fact that people from many faith backgrounds (mostly Christian denominations, but even non-Christians as well) gathered together under the banner of seeking God on a pilgrimage of trust.

It is our desire to develop a community which makes itself accessible and desireable to those who are still on the search for truth, and for God. We have come quite a ways in developing that kind of fellowship in Salem, but we have had few models to follow. Taize is one place we can see a similar goal for reaching across denominations, and even touching those outside the Christian faith gently, and although what we are doing is more "charismatic," and "evangelical" by nature, Taize does give us some ideas, and some hope.


carl said...

Sounds like a very cool place. Did you bring home some of those chants?

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Carl - you bet, and we'll be learning some of them.

John said...


Great stuff brother. Brother Roger, to be precise, was a Swiss Reformed minister, not Lutheran. Some say he privately entered the Roman Catholic Church but there is no evidence that I can see for the claim at all. He was very close to John Paul II and Benedict XVI, indeed a dear friend to both, but remained a Protestant.


Pastor Phil said...

Hey John,

Yeah, I've seen him listed as Lutheran, Swiss Reformed, and Lutheran Swiss Reformed. He did receive communoin from one of the Catholic Bishops, and I guess that was huge, but he never left his Protestant origins.