The Taize Community
The Taizé Community in France welcomes thousands of students and young adults each year from all over the world. They spend a week with the brothers, and with the Sisters of St Andrew, living in community, taking part in bible study, and joining in the daily prayer. The pattern of worship at Taizé is ecumenical and consists of short songs or chants, psalms, readings, silence and intercession. At the end of a week together the students and young adults return home. It is hard to leave Taizé as, apart from meeting new friends, for many people it becomes a place where they find a new or revived Christian faith. Taizé Prayer is held regularly in universities and colleges.
Taizé Prayer can also provide a pattern of common worship which can be used for Churches Together services or services during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It can also provide a model for themed evening prayer during Advent, Holy Week, Pentecost, or other seasons of the liturgical year. It can be a quiet and meditative way of worship for a small group of people who wish to pray together. It is open to all ages. The songs chosen might be drawn from other sources than Taizé.
There is an inexpensive A5 booklet ‘Songs from Taizé’ published each year containing well over 100 songs in different languages. The booklet also gives information about setting up and leading Taizé Prayer. ‘Songs from Taizé’ is available from Decani Music (www.decanimusic.co.uk). There are other Taizé song books which give instrumental parts and cantor lines for some of the songs. See the Decani Music website. Music from Taizé is included in a Calamus Licence also provided by Decani Music.
You will need a focus – a cross, an icon or an open bible. Use lots of candles – votive candles in holders are good – and place them around the focus. You will need one larger candle with a taper to light during the Song of Light. If there are children present one of them can light this candle during this song. There might be flowers and greenery, and rugs and prayer stools if you have them. Provide chairs for those who would rather not sit on the floor. The lights should be dimmed but bright enough for people to read. You will want to provide a sheet with words and music. If the songs are to be unaccompanied the best way to start them is with a tuning fork.
It is good to explain at the beginning that the songs are sung many times so that for the people singing together the words may become meditative and prayerful. It is also a good idea to let people know roughly how long the silence will be. Some people find silence difficult so try to manage it carefully.
At the end of the Prayer try not to be in a hurry to clear things away – allow people to leave in their own time if possible.
The Taizé Community has a very good website (www.taize.fr). Just click the language your need in the opening page. There is information on the site about the Taizé Community and the meetings there, daily readings, how to make contact, and what is going on with the Community in different parts of the world. It is also possible to listen to the songs, either in harmony or by part in order to learn them.