A busy summer of wrapping up ministry in Gosforth (miss you guys already!), moving south to St Albans, and getting to grips with a new geography and general life pattern. We’re just about all started up at work/school. We did, however, have a great holiday in France this year during which I had the opportunity to visit the ecumenical community at Taizé.
I only had a day to visit and try to capture the essence of the place, which is a fairly difficult thing to do. I did, however, manage to get there fairly early and participate for most of the day. It was great to participate in a day of reflection, worship and prayer with such an eclectic group of people from all over the place.
The first thing I took part in was a bible reflection, where one of the brother’s taught in English, pausing every few seconds whilst his words were translated all at once into around 5 different languages. Surely a glimpse of heaven, with ever tribe and tongue gathered before God. I was struck by the simplicity, and yet the vitality of the brother’s teaching. He spoke of the woman at the well and brought home the message about where we are turning to to find our Living Water.
Shortly after, time for prayer just after 12 in the Church of the Reconciliation – a very modern building built to accommodate the huge numbers of people. The bells began to ring, the brothers entered and knelt, and the famous Taizé music began, interspersed with scripture, prayers and silence.
After a hectic lunch (imagine 3000 young people queueing outdoors in 30 degrees for a plate of mass produced food….yeah), I took a walk just down the hill to the small village church, outside of which Brother Roger’s simple grave is located. He was murdered in the Church of Reconciliation 10 years ago this year, so poignant for a man who build his life and his community on peace, justice, mercy and love. There was a beautiful simplicity to the grave and I’m sure many, along with me, offered prayers of thanks for his life and all that he had founded at Taizé. It just struck me that this man was not killed for what he did or anything he said, but for who he was…an embodiment of the gospel for or present age.
The next slot in the programme was the afternoon workshop. I felt led to sit in on a conversation with Father Mariano Puga, a Chilean worker-priest from Santiago, who was speaking on the subject of the church for the poor. He told simple stories of his work amongst the poor in Chile, and presented a strong challenge: ‘leave your structures of privilege. You cannot remain in privilege when Jesus is down the road eating fly soup with the poor.’ I can’t explain how much my heart echoed an amen to that. It was a sacramental moment, a sacramental encounter – I encountered in that man in that short hour someone who reminded me more of Jesus than I think I can recount.
The day ended with evening prayer back in the main church, with beautiful singing, scripture, silence along with thousands of people from all over the world.
I came away refreshed, blessed….all those words. I came away with questions about my own faith and vocation, my own continuing development as a follower of Jesus and about the new phase of life and ministry here in St Albans. Where am I finding Living Water? Where am I encountering Jesus? What structures of privilege am I leaning on that prevent me from giving myself wholly to his cause? What does my life say and communicate? What does it provoke? These are all great questions to spend some time with.