Three young people brought together by WCC to participate in the 30th European Young Adult Taizé Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland share their impressions. For more information about Taizé: www.taize.fr
January 3, 2008
Youth from across Europe and as far away as Australia and Iraq flocked to the Palexpo Exhibition Centre in Geneva to attend the annual European Taizé meeting this week. Taizé practices come from the ecumenical monastic community by the same name in France. Taizé is perhaps best known for its distinctive worship style, which incorporates contemplative choruses and chants, silent reflection, and simple homilies. This worship style is gaining popularity, as is made evident by the 40,000 individuals who made the "Pilgrimage of Trust" to Switzerland to worship with their brothers and sisters from different Christian traditions around the world.
The event was organized so as to integrate different levels of communal experience. Over the course of the event, participants came together as a whole twice a day for prayer at Palexpo. In smaller groups of 70-400, participants engaged in more intimate discussions and reflection in local parishes around Geneva. This particular way of organizing the event was particularly effective as the large-scale experience was complemented by the local church context. Participants learned to discuss their experiences with Taizé worship and ecumenism with people from different cultural and religious backgrounds.
We stayed in the village of Meyrin. Our parish church, the Meyrin Ecumenical Center, was home to a Roman Catholic, a Protestant, and an Evangelical congregation. The physical divider that splits the church building into Catholic and Protestant portions is removed during Christmas and Easter, and was taken down for the Taizé event. Each of us stayed with host families who lived near the Ecumenical Center. Though each of us was limited to some degree by the language barrier, we all eventually connected with our host families. Living with locals enriched our experience by keeping us accountable to others, even when we weren't worshipping or with our small groups.
The Taizé services themselves were very powerful, and despite the enormity of the crowd, the organizers managed to create a space that welcomed prayerful meditation. Unfortunately, creating an environment that is accessible to so many people inevitably involves a certain level of planning and orchestration for logistical purposes which, at times, had the effect of imbuing what was intended to be a worshipful, contemplative, reflective and sacred time with a degree of superficiality. Despite these brief moments of disillusionment, participation in the smaller scale activities with the local churches and in the homes of the host families was much more authentic. At Palexpo, our hymns were accompanied by skilled musicians and trained singers. The rich sound that resulted from this enormous crowd of believers was a wonder to hear, and affirmed our wish for Christian unity.
In sum, we found the event to be a truly uplifting, inspirational and refreshing experience of Christian community and a really solid attempt to bring Christians from all different traditions together under the umbrella of the salvific activity of God in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Bjorn J. Burrows, Bahamas
Liv Gibbons, USA
Robyn Goodwin, Australia
Small group discussions to explore the themes during the 'Pilgrimage of Trust' - at Palexpo before afternoon prayers - in Palexpo before the prayers with 40'000 participants - gathering around the cross at the end of prayers is an important ritual for many of the pilgrims.