Like a lot of people, I’mfamiliar with the chants that stem from the Taizé Community and have been for a number of years. I also went to the Community as a child. My only memory of the trip is spending what felt like hours in silence during a service in the church. Apparently I wrote a plea for help in escaping on a piece of a tissue box that I had on hand…
With that memory, I decided to join a trip from Sheffield in the summer after my second year there. It came at a rather interesting time in my mind as I’d just had my first date with Sarah and so had a lot to think about!
My first impression of the place is that it was beautiful. As well as the church, just off the campsite there was a lake with in a very pretty setting. It was encouraged as a place to go and think and pray. I liked it, even if I didn’t make as much use of it as I should.
The main thing that I really liked about life at Taizé was the pattern of 3 daily prayer services. It provided a good rhythm to the day and made sure I had plenty of space to think/reflect/pray (as each service includes 15 mins silence). To start with the silence was intimidating, a vast expanse that needed filling with meaningful prayer and reflection.
Brother Paulo was the English Brother who was looks after visiting groups of young people from the UK. One afternoon he invited our group to come and have ‘tea’ with him. (I put tea in inverted commas because what they call tea in Taizé is actually a sweet lemony drink that can be served hot or cold.). While we had tea, Paulo talked to us about what led him to where he was. Among the many interesting things he said that resonated with me (and I think the others in the group) was his description of how he sees prayer. He described it as creating a space deep inside of him for God to enter. He would put things in that place that he wanted to pray about. I liked the image and found it really helpful in using the silent times during the daily services.
I structured my silent prayer times, partly to ensure I didn’t spend all my time thinking about my blossoming romance back in England! I spent one day on family, one day on life in Sheffield, and so on. Not only did I get very useful time to think about the things that were important to me, it was also one of the very few times I can say I have felt a real connection with God. I was able to feel a presence which I don’t think I’ve felt anywhere else – it was definitely one of the ‘thin places’.
I have intended to go back ever since – I thought about going down for a weekend during my year in Paris and Sarah and I have talked about going for the last couple of years. Hopefully we will do soon.