Taizé, for most people connected to the Christian faith, comprises a delightful medley of songs and chants. However, behind the incredible array of songs and music resides a passionate, ecumenical, monastic community of some 100 brothers. They are drawn from a variety of Protestant and Catholic persuasions located in a small picturesque town, Taizé, in the French province of Burgundy.
The Taizé community was formed by Brother Roger in 1940, originally dedicated to reducing the suffering caused by the German occupation in the Second World War. However, in more recent years, Taizé has become one of the world’s most important sites of Christian pilgrimage, with a focus on youth. Over 100,000 young people from around the world make pilgrimages to Taizé each year for prayer, Bible study, sharing, and communal work.
Through the community’s ecumenical outlook, pilgrims are encouraged to live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation. With these charisms, fraternities have now been formed in many of the poorer regions of the world including in Calcutta, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Algeria, Brazil, Kenya, Senegal and the Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood of Manhattan.
Perhaps the most significant aspects that have flowed into the wider global community are the songs, music and worship style of the community. The songs primarily comprise short melodic chants often based on the Psalms. They are usually given to us in a variety of different languages and are frequently sung in a multipart harmony. Taizé music has formed the backbone of many contemplative Christian church services in the west.
My wife, Rosemary, and I had the joy of spending a week with the Taizé community in 2008 along with some 5,000 others, mainly young people, from across umpteen countries. There we sampled the joy and wonder of falling in love with the simplicity and passion of expressing worship in a form seldom experienced in Australian churches. It was a spiritual game changer.
However, Taizé is not just about songs – it is also about silence and stillness – it is about harnessing the contemplative spirit. Our world has become a deafening place and a 24/7 cacophony of noise and distractions that now demand our attention. It so easily drowns out the gentle voice of the Spirit. Taizé invites us to be in stillness with the Holy Spirit in the moment.
To find out more about Taizé, visit the Taizé community’s website and listen to Taizé music on the Taizé YouTube channel
Editor’s note 16/12/2021: Text updated, with St Mark’s, The Gap event information omitted.Jump to next article