If you are not familiar with songs of Taize, you might be surprised to learn that you might know a few. Any time you see the author named Jaques Berthier that is a Taize song. Usually they are based on a short verse of Scripture; and they are more classical in musical style, designed to sing in 4 part harmony, and designed to have a variety of musical instruments accompanying or none at all. At Middletown UMC we offer some Taize style worship services during both Lent and Advent. The services are designed to be contemplative. If you need some quiet time in your life, this provides good opportunity for some sacred space.
Services here happen three times a day: Before breakfast, before lunch and after dinner. We are called to worship by the great bells that toll for at least a good ten minutes. Worship begins directly with song. There are three electronic boards that display the page number in the song book that you pick up at the entrance. There are no announcements, no welcoming, they simply begin with song. The song has a simple melody and is sung many times to allow the words to sink into your very soul. If done well, you might be singing them in your sleep.
The brothers all come in during the tolling of the bell. They sit in the center, dressed in white albs. There are about 100 brothers in all. Outside of worship they are dressed as ordinary men. We pilgrims sit around them in the great big Church of the Resurrection. The church can hold several thousand, but the atmosphere is intimate.
The seating is less comfortable for us older folk. It is on the floor, on worn carpet. There are a few kneeling benches to be used, and some folks bring their own benches. There are a few higher benches against one particular wall. I have frequently found myself seated there.
After the first two songs Scripture is read. It is usually read in at least two languages and you receive a piece of paper upon coming in with the Scripture in more languages.
After Scripture there is a Gloria, maybe a petition prayer, and then silence for about 8 minutes. It reminds me of the silence in the heavenly realms in the book of Revelation. Silent prayer time then moves to more songs. Communion is shared in the morning. The entire service is about 45 minutes to an hour. In the evening some of the brothers are stationed around at the end of service in case you need a short individual time of prayer or spiritual encouragement.
The church is dimly lit with candles providing color from the front area (see above picture) and light coming in from stained glass windows around the sides of the church. In addition, icons are in many places to remind us of the events of the life of Jesus. Icons are a kind of painting, done in a particular way, once again depicting scenes from the gospels. All this is designed to give space for the Holy Spirit to work in the life of those who are worshipping. Taize worship opens up space for the sacred.
So how do you give space for the sacred, or for the Holy Spirit to work in your life? Where do you go, what practices do you have in place to allow God to speak to you? Come, Holy Spirit, come!