Taizé. This is a name of a community of brothers in the countryside of eastern France. It started out simply enough; a few men were seeking a place to live intentionally towards reconciliation and peace making following WWII and the German occupation. Some years later, young adults began showing up at their doorstep, and not wanting to turn them away, invited them to worship. Today there are thousands of young people, old people, and everyone in between that show up at the doorstep of Taizé.
In an age of individualism, materialism, selfishness, ambiguous religion and beliefs, and secularism, THOUSANDS of people show up at Taizé each day to pray with these brothers.I first heard of Taizé while singing some of their music here in the US. When I made plans to visit my friend in France, I found the opportunity to visit this mysterious monastery as well. I came with no expectations; just a few songs learned.
What I discovered at Taizé was…and is special. The first night of worship I remember sitting on the floor alone in silence waiting for the service to begin. By the time the first prayer was sung, I was amazed to hear a choir of voices surrounding me. I turned my head to see thousands of people squeezed into any imaginable space for prayer. The sound was so sweet it brought me to tears. And here I was, a lonely American who flew around the world to France, and then sat on the train, and then a bus for 5 hours, now worshiping with brothers and sisters from all corners of the world. And not only were they Christians, but they were young, beautiful faces. They brought all of the world’s individualism and vanity, and now sat as one body, singing praises to God in every language imaginable.
I came to Taizé because of the music, and I did have a wonderful time singing with the choir, and learning new songs while I was there. But what keeps me thinking about Taizé, this small community in the French countryside, is the unity experienced there. Each morning I woke up in the same room as people from France and Poland. I sat in prayer with people from Italy and Germany. Thousands of young people were served meals together at the same time–still a miracle in my book. I listened as a brother from Canada shared with us his perspectives on Jesus as Christ and the Gospel of John. I sat with newly found friends from the Netherlands, England, Belgium, and Portugal to name a few. In the afternoon I learned about icons from another brother. And in the evenings, after a day of worship, young people gathered to let loose and sing classic rock tunes from the US.
While Taizé is known for its music and liturgy, I will remember its community. This is the same community I envision for the kingdom of God. It’s the same community I envision for our church today, and yes, even the world. And while I may never get back to Taizé, I will remember the words of Brother Roger, and in the stillness of a cool evening while the stars are shining above, I will listen for the angelic voices of Taizé in the breeze, and give thanks to God.