My take-away from the Bible Study discussions, and our life together that week in Taizé, is that Christianity — living the Gospel — is a life of living in relationship. Our time at Taizé was a precious few days of being consciously in the presence of God, and our goal was to take that confidence in God home with us.-Susan Butterworth
This week, Susan Butterworth is our guest blogger. Susan Butterworth, is a writer, teacher, singer, and lay minister. She is a graduate of Episcopal Divinity School and leads Song & Stillness: Taizé @ MIT, a weekly ecumenical service of contemplative Taizé prayer at the interfaith chapel at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
On Tuesday and Wednesday, October 15 & 16th, Brothers Emile and John from the Taizé community will be visiting Boston. You are welcome to join for prayer and dinner with them on either Tuesday or Wednesday. Also, check out this video about the Find A Way Relay, which was a journey on foot and by bicycle, that ten people took from DC to St. Louis, where they participated in the Taize St. Louis Pilgrimage of Trust in May 2017.
In July 2019, I made a pilgrimage to the Taizé Community in France. I’ve been home for two weeks, and my impressions of living and worshipping in community at Taizé are vivid and inspiring. Two thousand voices lifted in prayer together; two thousand souls breathing in silence together; four thousand hands cooperating to make communal living possible.
One of my strongest impressions is of the incredibly global nature of the Taizé Community. We came from all over the world to be together. The first person to speak to me, as we stood patiently in line to receive our room and work assignments, was a woman from Poland. The young man who explained the daily routine was from the Netherlands. My bunkmates were Swedish, Russian, Scottish, Belgian, and American.
There were English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, and Chinese language orientation and discussion groups. Every conversation allowed generous space for translation. Every chant, every intercession, every scripture reading, every opportunity to talk with the brothers, was offered in a dozen languages.
The embodied message of Christian unity at Taizé was deep and wide. In our small Bible Study groups, we were mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, and those who have not yet found a church home. An international meeting of Franciscan Brothers joined in the life of the community. Catholic Mass was offered daily, in addition to morning, noon, and evening prayer with the Taizé brothers. After morning prayer,
blessed bread was offered in the Orthodox tradition, while the Taizé brothers distributed consecrated bread and wine to all who wished to receive. After evening prayer, conversation, confession, and the sacrament of reconciliation were available in multiple languages, from both Taizé and Franciscan brothers.
A bit of background for those who wonder what exactly is Taizé. Taizé is a village in the Burgundy region of France, not far from Geneva, Switzerland. It is the home of a monastic community started in 1940 by Brother Roger, a Swiss Protestant from the Reformed tradition. The mission of the community, from the very beginning, was reconciliation. The community is open to all Christians, and especially addresses Christian youth gathered in weekly meetings devoted to prayer and reflection. The community gives its name to a style of chant and contemplative prayer in meetings large
and small, all over the world.
In addition to the daily prayer, everyone at Taizé joined in daily Bible Study. The theme of the weekly meetings was Hospitality. After morning prayers and breakfast, everyone gathered into large cohorts to read the scripture passage of the day (in multiple languages of course), and listen to an introduction given by one of the brothers (with generous pauses for translation). In my group of “Adults,” aged 30 – over 60, Brother John led us
through a beautiful reading of the Andrei Rublev’s fifteenth-century Icon of the Trinity, within the context of the Genesis story of the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 18:1-15). Each day he left us with a series of questions to ponder, and discuss with our small groups in the afternoon.
My group was English-speaking, but the people came from the U.S., Switzerland, Germany, Slovenia, Austria, and China. Often the depth of the discussion was beyond the English ability of some of our people, and we’d pause while Johanna’s story spilled out in German, Stephanie translated into English, and Joseph translated from English to Chinese for Ting.
My take-away from the Bible Study discussions, and our life together that week in Taizé, is that Christianity — living the Gospel — is a life of living in relationship. Our time at Taizé was a precious few days of being consciously in the presence of God, and our goal was to take that confidence in God home with us.
I’m excited and inspired to continue offering weekly Taizé prayer at MIT in the new academic year. I especially want to extend the invitation to experience Taizé prayer, with its embodiment of Christian unity, to UniteBoston and the wider Christian community in Boston and Cambridge. We meet at the MIT chapel on Mass Ave in Cambridge, every Sunday evening during the academic year, for multi-lingual scripture reading, song, and contemplative silence. More information can be found on our Facebook page, Song & Stillness: Taizé at MIT.