By Rev. Susan Schwartz
I want to tell you about a special form of worship that we offer each month at Hope Lutheran in Forest Hills. It is a meditative form of prayer called Taize.
One of the features which makes Taize Prayer so unique is the music, most of which was written by one of the brothers, Jacques Berthier. In addition to the music, the hour includes: silence for reflection, a meditative reading of scriptures and a time for personal prayer. But let me share a little more about the origins of Taize Prayer.
The Taize community was founded by Brother Roger and was named after a tiny village in France. Brother Roger first came to the village of Taize in 1940. He dreamed of starting a community “on account of Christ and the Gospel,” and chose to do so in an area that was experiencing human distress.
During a time of war, Brother Roger’s home became a place of welcome for refugees, especially Jews, fleeing from the Nazi occupation. He was joined by his brothers and in 1949, when there were seven of them, they committed themselves for life to celibacy and to life together.
At first, the community was made up of brothers from different Protestant denominations but today, it includes many Catholics as well. Taize is an ecumenical, international community.
Since 1966, members of an international Catholic congregation of sisters, who live according to St. Ignatius of Loyola, have taken the responsibility for a large part of the work of welcoming people to Taize.
Taize’s vocation is to strive for communion among all. From its beginnings, the community worked for reconciliation among Christians, split apart into different denominations. The brothers do not view reconciliation among Christians as the end in itself: it concerns all of humanity, since it makes the church a place of communion for all. Participants enter into the prayer of community, and share their lives and concerns with one another.
Our Friday night, Taize services are much like that of the community in France and different from our worship on Sunday morning. Taize does not include a sermon and has more singing and music. The songs are easy to learn tunes that are repeated. It is very easy to become very relaxed during the singing and even close one’s eyes focusing on the words and the music. Guitar and keyboard and vocalists lead the singing.
The service is more informal, actually held in the Social Hall. The Taize cross, surrounded by candles, is a visual focal point. Participants often hold candles during Taize. Hope’s Taize is a warm addition to Sunday morning worship.
Hope’s December Taize for Advent is this coming Friday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m. Following Taize, we’ll gather for eggnog and other seasonal goodies and a St. Nicholas Carol Sing led by Sr. Sandy Pelusi. We invite you to come and experience Taize with us.
The Rev. Susan Schwartz is pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Swissvale and Hope Lutheran Church in Forest Hills.