December 15, 2003

Taizé Worship
by Jan Harris
I want to introduce you to the Taizé form of worship -- or if you are already familiar with it -- remind you of it. This form of worship is named for an ecumenical, international community founded in 1940, in Taizé, France, by Brother Roger. Many churches around the world offer this form of worship. It usually last from one hour, to an hour and a half. Generally, they put a note such as this on the worship bulletin by way of explanation:

"A Time of Prayer in the spirit of Taizé. This is meditative common prayer. Gathered in the presence of Christ, we sing uncomplicated repetitive songs, uncluttered by too many words, allowing the mystery of God to become tangible through the beauty of simplicity."

People are handed a bulletin and a candle as they come in the door, where they gather quietly in the gently lit church or worship space. At the front, a few lighted candles sit amongst Christian symbols or icons. People sit during the first few songs, which may be sung in English, French, Spanish, Latin -- regardless of the country. These are songs of adoration of the Lord, and praise or petition to the Lord. Two or three different songs are sung to begin. Then all stand, and a few (usually the children) come to the front to light their candles. They then walk to the first rows, lighting the candle of the person on the end, who turns to his neighbor, and shares the light.

"Alleluia" is sung gently through this time. When everyone's candle is lit, then the cantor utters a few words of prayer, and everyone raises their candles and sings "Alleluia" with the cantor.

This is followed by a Scripture reading. And, as the people sing gently again, each person comes to the front to stand their candle in a pot filled with sand, and then return to their place. When all have surrendered their candle, quietness descends, and people remain in silent prayer for ten minutes.

A note such as this appears in the bulletin by way of explanation:

"When we try to express communion with God in words, we rapidly reach the end of our capacities. A fairly long period of silence to listen to the voice of God deep within, therefore, is essential in discovering the heart of prayer (10 minutes)."

The cantor ends the silence by beginning a song, which all join in. A time for prayer for those near, and those far away, and for all the things that are on our hearts follows, with all the people joining in with "Kyrie eleison" ("Lord, have mercy"). After this everyone is invited to share the Lord's peace with their neighbor.

This time of prayer is ended with the people joining hands and praying the Lord's prayer together.

A final hymn ends the Taizé form of service.

The Taizé community in France has a web page, which gives more explanation than I have given. I encourage you to look it up. It is available in English. It is

The reason I want to tell you about it is so that you may find this form of worship in your community. Usually, exactly the same program is offered in each place throughout the month. It is worshipful and ecumenical. There is usually nothing to disturb or distract the worshiper from worship -- no announcements, no sermon or homily, no appeals. The focus is entirely on the Lord.

If you are having difficulty finding a group or community that practices contemplative prayer, or if you find that you long to meet more often with people's whose focus is simply on silent worship, then a Taizé from of service is a great gift.

Under the "Coming Retreats" section are listed a few places that I know of in the western suburbs of Chicago who offer Taizé on a monthly basis.

I am sure that you will find similar places somewhere in your locale.

I wish you blessings as you seek the Lord. And a blessed Christmas and new year season.