Young People and Silence - A Pilgrimage to Taizé in 2022
During the 2022 October half-term, Youth Ministry in Communion took a group of ten young people to Taizé, an ecumenical monastic community in France.
If you have never heard of Taizé before, it is worth looking up! It is a community that was formed by Brother Roger in 1942 during the Second World War. Amidst the destruction and devastation of the war, he had a vision of the church witnessing to unity and peace. So, he began a small Christian community that welcomed both Catholics and Protestants alike. As Br Roger insisted, “Never resign yourself to the scandal of the separation of Christians, all so readily professing love for their neighbour, yet remaining divided. Make the unity of Christ’s Body your passionate concern.”
Today, still sharing this original vision, Taizé is a thriving community that attracts thousands of young people (aged 15-30) every week. When we visited, we were there with 2,000 other young people from nations across Europe such as France, Germany, Netherlands, and Italy to name a few!
The rhythm of life together at Taizé consists in prayer and worship three times a day. Unsurprisingly, many of the young people were initially very sceptical about this. But if you ask them now, they will tell you how accessible they found the worship, despite the majority of the readings and songs were in foreign languages. Speaking to them on return, they commented how they were already missing the daily life at Taizé. As one of the group leaders described it:
To sit in the undistinguished barnlike modern church there in the company of two thousand young persons, in services of worship led by the monks of the community, was a profoundly moving experience. Worship there, three times a day, consists of scripture, silence, and singing. That’s it. It goes very deep. It left its impression.
Alongside the worship, everyone present serves the life of the community through responsibilities such as preparing meals, washing up, or even scrubbing the toilets and showers. And if you ever doubted the existence of miracles, just imagine our young people with gloves on, brushes in hand, scrubbing the cubicles of Taizé!! (Or, for those of you like Doubting Thomas, see the pictures below for proof!). There were also Bible discussion groups led by the Brothers of the community, from which we moved into smaller mixed groups, with young people and leaders from the various other nations and church traditions there.
It was a very moving and transformational experience for all of us, leaders and young people alike. Many of the group have already expressed their desire to go again next year, and this despite having the intimate experience of a 16-hour journey each way, together on a small coach! In particular, the young people have mentioned how encouraging it was to be with teenage Christians from so many different backgrounds, all gathering to worship together. For each of us there, it was a time to be still and discover the depths of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Summarising the vision of Taizé, Br Roger wrote:
The daily aspiration of my brothers and myself is for every young person to discover Christ, not Christ in isolation, but the “Christ of communion” present in his Body, the Church. There many of the young can find a place to commit their whole lives to the very end. There they have all they need to become creators of trust, of reconciliation, not just among themselves but together with all the generations.
Youth Ministry in Communion is heading to Taizé again in October 2023 with 40 places available for young people. For more information, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org