(Picture above: our group)
For October half term this year, Youth Ministry in Communion hosted its second pilgrimage to the Taizé Community in France, taking a group of young people from all over the Kensington Area, with an honorable mention to Uxbridge! 16 of us got on a coach and drove through the night to participate in a weeklong experience of life in the Community.
If Taizé is new to you, it is a community that was founded by Brother Roger in the 1940’s. His vision was to create a place of peace, where those of all denominations could worship together. The music there has become very famous; the songs are short, repetitive chants that are written in many languages. They are worth a Google search if you haven’t heard them!
(Picture above: The Church of Reconciliation, Taizé)
The community has flourished over the years and is now a pilgrimage site for young people from all over the world. During our time there, there were about 2,000 teenagers from all over Europe. France, Germany, The Netherlands, and Italy to name a few. We were the only group from the UK though, so our young people stood out with their accents!
(Picture above: This game has been named Taizé Twister and is played on the benches where we share our meals)
During the week, we worshiped together, participated in bible studies, took part in work crews, ate meals together, and had a really fun time. Stepping into the full rhythm of Taizé means being in a work crew, so our young people cleaned bathrooms, kitchens, did the dishes and more. The leaders had a fantastic time witnessing this!
(Picture above: Some of our young people re-enacting the Wedding at Cana in their bible study group!)
A big part of life in Taizé is silence. Three times a day, everyone in the community gathers for prayer and worship. We sing songs, read a Bible passage, and reflect in silence. We end up being quiet for 30 minutes every day. I say quiet because we were gathered with almost 2,000 teenagers in one room so while most of them were doing their best to stay silent, it was never totally silent!
As you can imagine this was hard for all of us, adults and young people alike! I may be a little biased when I say this, but our young people did stand out during the times of worship and quiet. They fully participated in the silence and seemed to gain a lot out of it, once the initial discomfort passed. Sitting fully in silence is hard! When we were sitting in the first service, it was hard for me to adjust. I realized how little of my daily life is spent in semi or total quiet, and throughout the week I came to value and look forward to those times. In our world that is filled with constant entertainment, silence is a solace. The brothers know what young people (and just everyone) really needs!
At the end of the week, we had the opportunity to meet with a British member of the Community, Brother Paulo, who’s been a part of the community since the 1970’s. He asked us to all share something that stood out to us during the week, or a favorite part. Our young people shared their thoughts and asked him lots of questions. I was surprised to hear that the silence was a highlight of the week for a number of our young people. The week is filled with so much, so it really touched me that silence would stand above the rest for them.
(Picture above: Everyone had a candle during this service, and watching the light grow in the room was a highlight of the week for me.)
A leader asked Br Paulo if the community has thought about becoming more modern in order to appeal to more young people and I loved his answer. He essentially said no; people crave a kind of simplicity when it comes to worshiping and connecting with God. They don’t need smoke machines and flashy videos to attract young people, they’re doing just fine as they are. I loved his frankness. He’s right, the community was overflowing with people seeking out a simpler life with God, even if it was just for a week.
I’ll leave you with a thought: almost 2,000 young people signed up for a week spent in community and with God. To me, this is a bold act of faith. The church isn’t fading, we just aren’t looking in the right places. Young people from all over the world are eager in their faith and their desire to share it with others. God is present and working in this world!