By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: May 23, 2015
Published: May 23, 2015
TESSA Dudley was surrounded by thousands of young people from all across the world but she could still lose herself in a silence that comes with deep meditation. Sponsored by St. John the Divine Anglican Church and the Diocese of New Westminster, Dudley made a pilgrimage to Taizé, a small village in central France, in 2007 to experience the communal and yet a profoundly personal experience of finding faith.
The Taizé community is an ecumenical monastic order that was founded in 1940 by Roger Louis Schutz-Marsauche (known as Brother Roger), a reformed protestant. It is composed of more than one hundred brothers, from Protestant and Catholic traditions.
Every year, tens of thousands of young pilgrims visit the French village to be part of the community. The immersion in the Taizé style of worship marked for Tessa the beginning of a faith journey, she says. “Being a teenager involved in a faith in a very secular society is not easy but coming together in a gorgeous place in the French countryside with youth from all over the world showed me that I am not alone.”
The Taizé style of worship isn’t limited by age or geography. In churches across the world, members gather once or twice a month to worship God with chants, music, short prayers and silence. At St. John the Divine Anglican Church, they gather on the first Monday of each month for a Taizé service that takes 25 minutes. With flickering candles on a table, church members sit in a circle and say short prayers and chants punctuated with silences that can last for as long as 10 minutes. “There is no one preaching, and the prayers are short and simple. This is more about being in God’s presence,” says organiser Wendy Booth.
In these moments of silence, church member Rita Carey feels calm and relaxed and in the presence of a divine spirit. “It’s very calming and it feels like a personal connection to God,” she says. She compares the silence to the feeling of being in a dense forest where the silence is broken with the chirping of birds. In those moments of prayers and silences, she tries to let go of her worries and trust in God’s presence. A member of the Anglican Church for 35 years, she says being part of the church community and the Taizé worship gives her the strength to take on life’s challenges with resolute faith.
Taizé style of worship was started at the Anglican Church about 12 years ago by then pastor Mike Stuchbery, who is now a minister at the St. Saviour’s Anglican Church in Penticton. Although he had been familiar with the Taizé since the 90s, he started a Taizé service in Squamish after visiting Taizé in France.
Stuchbery says the Taizé brings him to a holy place shared with other people. He says it also emphasises reconciliation of the different church denominations. “Its mandate is to get churches to talk to each other and to say that we can all be together and worship as one community,” he said.
Stuchbery recalls when he first introduced the Taizé worship some members were suspicious. For them, spoken prayers and not silent contemplation was a way to God. For some, to sit in silent contemplation was to invite sinful thoughts to take over the mind. But as more churches become accepting of diverse theological ideas, the Taizé style of worship has found acceptance.
“It has challenged the whole sense of what has become denominational church, and in that it’s quite radical,” he said.
Anglican Church member Pam Tattersfield says the Taizé worship helps keep her in the discipline of centering prayer, which is a time of meditation with God that she tries to practise each morning. In the communal Taizé service, the gently sung chants and the presence of others reaching out to the spirit evokes a mysterious feeling that always transports her to a divine place, she says. “In taking the time to just be still and open my heart and spirit, daily distractions
and problems recede, and I am calmed and refreshed through a connection with God,” she said.
For Tattersfield, the silences between the chants work the best. It is then that she can find the silent inside while she listens and watches for God. “I have not experienced anything dramatic, but I regularly feel the presence of the Spirit, and come out of a trance-like state, strengthened and refreshed. Sometimes solutions to problems come to me moments, hours, days afterwards,” she says.
The Taizé worship has enabled another member Wendy Booth to make space for God in her life. During the prayer, she liked to focus on a particular sacred word that she chose a long time ago. “When my mind wanders, I return to God by focusing again on my sacred word. Repeating the simple chants helps the worship feel more meditative,” she says.