Sunday, January 30, 2011

Journey To Taize: A Contemplative Christian Evening

Tonight I was blessed to attend a Taize-style service for the second time. The first time was 10 years ago at a Presbyterian church; this time a United church hosted it.

The Ecumenical Community of Taize, France consists of approximately 130 brothers from 25 countries, and was formed during the Second World War, its purpose being to foster unity within Christendom.

Taize services are contemplative and meditation in nature, something that has appealed to me for many many years. It's funny, when I was a teenager all I wanted to hear was drums and contemporary music in the church; now I love silence and music that provides for reflection.

As most reading this will know, I moved away from many of the tenets of evangelical Christianity many years ago. To be honest, there was a period when I wanted nothing to do with the Christian church. I was searching and really coming to know what I - not my church or teachers - believed.

However, I am thankful that that period of total Christian withdrawal is over. I think it is so very healthy if you are able to take parts of your past which you find valuable with you into your future. Also, I now find it helpful and soothing to hear some Christian teachings and scripture at my new spiritual community, Unity (http://www.unitykitchener.com/)

I also find it very nourishing to attend Christian services fairly often. Tonight was beautiful. Dozens of candles lit at the front of a dimly lit sanctuary, people entering in the silence. At the front is a cross that looks like it is from an Orthodox church. And the service begins. For the next hour, a choir, organist and violinist will gently lead us in short, repetitive Christian hymns that are used at the Taize community. Scripture readings are interspersed. Then comes a wonderful peaceful 10 full minutes of silent prayer. The following part of the service is by far the most moving.

At this time, after The Lord's Prayer is recited, another set of gentle hymns begins. 2 women approach the cross at the front of the sanctuary, they gently lay it down on the altar. At this time anyone in attendance is welcome to approach the cross, kneel or stand, touch it if you like, and symbolically place your burdens there.

It had been quite a long time indeed since I'd knelt at an altar, and never at a cross, but I approached the altar, bowed down and touched the cross. There I released my burdens to God. (Yes, I believe that God is within us and expresses as us, but the symbolism of bowing down and placing your burdens at the cross is almost unspeakably powerful.) During this time, as someone softly weeps beside me, I hear the voice of God within me.

"I've got you covered."
"I will not leave you."
"I will stay with you."
"You can trust me."
"Release your burdens to me, my yolk is easy and my burden is light."
"I will bless you far more than you have even imagined. Hold on."

A couple more songs are sung, then a woman brings the Christ candle down from the platform and begins to light everyone's candles (that we picked up on our way in.) The lights in the sanctuary go dark, and we proceed in song and by candlelight into the adjoining gymnasium. A short prayer is given and the evening concludes with friendly conversation.

All in all, a beautifully powerful night here in Waterloo.

Another Taize service is being held at the end of February at a Catholic church in town. Give me a ring if you're interested in coming with.

Blessings and Love,

Mark Andrew

Sent from my Tricorder.