Sunday, 7 March 2010

A Sunny Sunday with Songs and Silence

I decided to go to my favourite Taizé service today, the Sunday morning Eucharist. The service starts at 10.00 and it basically follows the Catholic Eucharist in French, but with a Taizé twist. from the Taizé website I left home with plenty of time to spare, but at this time of year that isn’t really necessary as parking is easy and near the church. In the summer I don’t bother with the Taizé car park, it is always full to overload and then there is the nightmare of getting out of Taizé itself after the service with all the busses and people milling around. I usually park in Ameugny and walk from there, this means I don’t have to drive in Taizé at all. Many of the people staying in our gites, walk or cycle up the hill, but I know I would end up marching for fear of being late, even though I know it doesn’t take that long to get there and I would be all hot and flustered when I went in. So it is the car for me - well that’s my excuse anyway, the other theory is that I’m just lazy, but I don’t hold with that one!

It is still the quiet season, so the church is at its smallest, but as always, it feels full and the singing is strong. Today there were a surprising number of tourists on the benches at the side. The tourists stand out as they usually have a badge with their name on it (yes some holiday tours include a service at Taizé!) and they rarely sit on the floor. Because of the way the church was built, one side of the front of the church rises up like a baseball stadium and the tourists sit on the benches at the top or on the steps leading down into the main floor area. It gives them a bird’s eye view of the proceedings. From my lowly position on the floor, I have noticed that the tourists rarely sing or participate and they shift about a lot during the silence, I think it makes them feel uncomfortable and I do often wonder why they came. Hopefully some of them will have absorbed some of the essence of the community and been touched by the experience, but I am not really so sure.

In contrast there was an elderly couple next to me on the floor. Obviously not regular Taizé goers, but at least they came to join in. He had decided to try out one of the little kneeling stools rather than sit on the floor, however, he didn’t check how others were using them and he also didn’t spot that the top of the bench slopes. So when he sat on it (rather than kneeling within it) he tumbled over backwards as the slope was leaning to the back. from his second attempt he checked out what other stool users were doing and did the same, with significantly more success. I have never tried the stools, to me they look uncomfortable, but people I have spoken to who use them are very happy with them. One of our campers used to set off up the hill every morning with her stool strapped to the back of her bike, the parcel shelf being just the right length and width for it to fit on nicely. My main reason for not trying the stools is that during the service you have to turn round and stand up and down a couple of times. The aforementioned elderly gentleman, had enormous problems with this manoeuvring and in the end gave up on the stool altogether. Sitting on the floor became preferable to wobbling off with every turn.

The service followed its usual pattern of songs, bible readings, prayer and silence but I was rather surprised that there were no Alleluias sung at all during the service today, a great pity as I always find them very uplifting and to my confusion, the Lord’s Prayer was sung in French. If they have changed over from English to French permanently, I need to brush up on the words, I don’t mind sight reading the songs that I don’t know, but it feels rather inappropriate to have to read out the Lord’s Prayer. It has been a while since I have been up the hill to Taizé - it was good to follow a service again, in fact it was lovely just to be out and about on such a beautiful sunny winter’s morning.

For more information about Taizé Click here.
This is our website La Tuilerie de Chazelle.


  1. I so wish I lived closer to Taize! As it is now the best option I have for church on Sundays is in Cannes that I attend by taking a bus for about 20 minutes. It's a nice church with very friendly people, but I would gladly ride a bus for an hour or two every week to attend a Taize service. Like I mentioned on my blog today, silence is just not available here.

    When I spent a week at Taize last month I tried the kneeling stools, but I'm only 154cm tall so my legs are too short for them, so I made a little nest with my winter coat, scarf, etc and sat on the floor.

  2. Hi Emily, yes I am very privileged to live so close to Taizé, I kind of take it for granted that I can go whenever I like. Interesting your comment about the kneeling stools, we are the same height!! and it never occurred to me my legs might not be long enough.. I just sit on the floor cross-legged, I do it all the time at home so I'm used to it.


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