Have you heard of Taize before? And its wonderful ministry to young people from around the world?
Taize is a small town in the Burgundy region of France which for many years has been the focus of Christian pilgrimage from all over the world. A monastic community, founded in 1940 by Brother Roger Schütz, has become well-known for its simple, chant-like style of worship and prayer, and more recently has become popular with young people.
Over 100,000 people make pilgrimages to Taizé every year for prayer, study and communal work, creating a year-round ecumenical Christian community. There are also special periods dedicated for young people, even one for UK schools and colleges to come, and a Reflection Week for 18-35 year-olds. During these weeks it has the unique feel of a religious monastery combined with an enormous youth camp!
Meetings at Taizé are about searching, listening to God and to each other, as well as thinking about what it means to be human. The idea is to discover in community how God’s people can act to bring justice, peace and hope to our world.
Three times a day young people gather with the Taizé community in the church for prayer with singing, Bible reading and silence. The brothers of the community introduce daily biblical reflections organised by age and language groups, followed by a time of discussion in small groups. Each afternoon workshops explore themes of faith and life touching on art and culture, social justice, environment and world peace.
Diocese of Portsmouth Visit Taizé 2023
Young pilgrims from our neighbouring diocese Portsmouth (with whom we share a Schools & Education Team), along with groups from Bath and Wells and Norwich diocese, pilgrimaged to Taize this summer. Below are a few quotes from young people who attended from the Diocese of Portsmouth:
It’s not often that you get the opportunity to work and serve alongside other Christians from around the world. We were all given jobs and I was on food distribution. It was great to build relationships as we worked together.
It was my first time there, and I really enjoyed the times of reflective worship and the chance to study the Bible with others. It was a really significant time for me and for many of the others who came.Revd Will Alvarez, Curate at St Faith’s, Lee-on-the-Solent
It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” she said. “It’s so different to how everyone leads their real lives. There’s no technology, and it’s hard to take that kind of break from society in day-to-day life at home. You had nothing to worry about, including all your food was provided, and it was jam-packed with fun stuff and amazing times.
My job was to work on the recycling bins – physically jumping on things to compact them. We did go straight from that into worship, and I might have liked to have a shower first! But both the weather and the worship were amazing.
They really value silence, so having 10 minutes of silence at the start of each worship time – three times a day – was a massive part of it. To have half an hour of pure silence each day was really nice to have. As a worship leader, I loved the songs. Repeating the same phrase many times really solidifies it in your brain. The simplest words can mean so much.
I was part of the choir they put together as well. And I’d hope to bring back some of what I’ve learned for when we lead worship at church.Rebecca Gemmell, St Paul’s Church, Sarisbury Green
It was a really lovely experience. I was blown away by the community and the tranquility and the peace there. I loved the way that it unites Christians from different traditions, backgrounds and beliefs, and we were able to have productive discussions and understand each other much better.
Personally, it has changed the way that I think about my faith, and I’ve found a deeper way of connecting with God. I hadn’t been before, but I’d heard about it from people who are a bit older than me, who encouraged me to go. There is a certain routine, which you have to get accustomed to, but it certainly helps you to focus on the important things, rather than what you’re going to eat or what clothes to wear.
It was also lovely meeting people from across the diocese, from different traditions, and interesting to see how they worship. It was great to learn more and to think about how we can work together to share an understanding of God.Pip Collins-White, St Mary’s Church, Fratton
DID YOU KNOW that Winchester Diocese has also organised a decade’s worth of pilgrimages of young people to Taize? Check out some of the photos from the archive below!