I was introduced to Taize when I was a grad student at Wheaton College. We were required to attend for a class on spiritual development and I really enjoyed it. For the past 2 years, a friend and I have attended nearly every month. I’ve especially enjoyed attending with a friend because after the service, if you wish to discuss it, you have someone to share the experience with who understands what you’re referring to (plus I prefer not to drive by myself). Unfortunately, I’ve missed the past two months, but I’m hoping to return again soon.
The service is held at Ascension Catholic Church in Oak Park, IL the first Friday of each month. A grad school friend describes it as “probably the most powerful practice for personal transformation I have ever experienced.” And I’d have to agree with him on that.
The following description is taken from Andy Jack’s blog. He & I attended grad school together and I think he’s done a great job of describing the service:
What is Taize?
Taize was founded at the beginning of World War II by a young Swiss theologian named Roger Shutz who wanted to work for peace and help refugees by celebrating Christian unity. Today, more than 100 men — Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox, from all over the world — are monks there, led by Brother Roger. The community has no preaching but has become famous for its simple, meditative music, and prayer. Many thousands of visitors travel to Taize every summer.
Outside of France, Oak Park, IL is reportedly the largest Taize gathering.
What does a Taize service look like?
The service begins with several Taize chants. The purpose of those 2 or 3 chants that they begin with is to help people make the transition from the business of their day into the spirit of the prayer.
All the children will come forward to the cross and light their candles, and they’ll take their candles through the church. And at that time everybody stands and we sing an alleluia.
There is normally a Scripture reading. The point of the Scripture is to proclaim God’s word, to allow people to hear God’s word. Later in the service it will provide a source for people to meditate on. There’s no preaching at a Taize service. We listen to God’s word and we offer our prayers. We don’t have some dogmatic sermon or homily; it’s pure prayer in that way.
Then, people will bring their candles forward — a great procession of light. They will place their candles in containers around the altar area. There are various icons, ancient Christian images. For some people it’s a wonderful way of being united with everyone that’s here. It seems that Christians often want to focus on their differences instead of the unity that already exists. That lighted candle can be symbolic of a prayer they’re holding in their heart. It can be symbolic of a loved one or a friend who’s in great need.
We have a period of silence. And the period of silence lasts about ten minutes. Everybody in this church prays in a different way. What we try to provide here is a place and a space for people to encounter the presence of God in silence. Then we have intercessory prayer, and we believe that’s one of the greatest things we can do — pray for each other and pray for peace. We open it up in the church, and we allow people to pray for whatever the feel they need to pray for.
We end with a final hymn or song or chant. Music can be very powerful. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, it can be very simple. And that is the whole point of worship music. It’s supposed to help people in their spiritual search.