Taize services offer Scripture, prayer and "a time to be still"
BY BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
Saturday, January 12, 2013
1/12/13 at 4:34 AM
Seven minutes of silence - an interminable length of time in today's fast-paced digital world - followed each of three Scripture readings Thursday night at a Taize service at Church of the Resurrection.
Two dozen Catholics and Protestants sat side-by-side in the rose-hued light of candles, singing simple, repetitive worship songs and praying in silence.
Church of the Resurrection is one of at least two Tulsa churches with regular meditative prayer services that are part of a tradition that originated in Taize, France, during World War II.
"I think the silence is the key for me," said Eve Abrams, who organized the ecumenical service about two years ago.
"We have so little silence in our culture. Even in religious settings, there are so many words," she said.
"Sometimes we forget to have silence, to just be present with God. Taize is a way to enter into that."
Abrams was raised Protestant, is now Catholic and thinks she may be of Jewish ancestry.
She encountered Taize at a conference in Toronto in 2006.
"I loved it," she said.
Back in Tulsa, she looked for a regular Taize service and then approached her pastor at Church of the Resurrection, the Rev. Stephen Austin, who was enthusiastic about her starting a service at the church.
Austin said he has participated in Taize services for years.
"People are attracted to the silence in our very noisy world, to hear God speak," he said.
"The Lord wishes to be with us, and the world easily drowns that out."
He said he considered Taize to be "group personal prayer. It's one's own private prayer time, but you do it together."
Years of worship: Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Tulsa probably has Tulsa's longest-running regular Taize service, meeting monthly for more than five years.
"It's my favorite service. It's lovely," said the Rev. Stephen McKee.
"It's paced well. It's a time to be still. It's quiet and inclusive," the rector said.
Trinity will have its next Taize service at 5 p.m. Sunday.
McKee was exposed to Taize in 2002, when he and church members Mark and Kathryn Shackelford took a group of young people from their church on a pilgrimage to Taize, France.
There they joined thousands of young people from around the world who have made the Taize monastic community a popular pilgrimage site.
Some 100,000 young people visit the small French town each year, spending a week in prayer, meditation and teaching sessions. They also do assigned chores.
"I've never cleaned so many toilets," McKee said.
The weather was hot, the accommodations were spartan and the food was "institutional," Mark Shackelford said, but something about the experience made him think about coming back.
"It was very powerful, a very spiritual experience," he said.
It was a good experience for the young people to be part of something bigger, to have fellowship with other young people from all over Europe, he said.
Worldwide movement: Taize has become a worldwide youth movement.
On Dec. 29, 40,000 young people from Taize communities in Europe and elsewhere met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican as part of their annual "pilgrimage of trust on Earth."
Benedict told them he was gladdened that they sought to "uncover the well springs of trust in God in order to live it in your everyday life."
Several years after returning to Tulsa, McKee asked Shackelford if he would help start a Taize service on a trial basis at Trinity. The service was immediately popular and has been held monthly since then.
The Taize community was started 70 years ago in France by Brother Roger, a Protestant from Switzerland, to provide care for children and adults suffering from the war. Many Jewish people were cared for there.
When the Nazis learned of the community, Brother Roger was forced to flee occupied France.
He returned in 1944 after Germany had been driven out of that part of France and re-established the community.
"The whole concept was to heal wounds from the war, but it's become a huge outreach all over the world," Abrams said.
The community now has two main themes: connection with God through silence in prayer and social justice issues, she said.
In 2005, at age 90, Brother Roger was stabbed to death during a Taize service by a mentally ill woman.
Brother Alois Leser, a Catholic and longtime member of the community, became his successor.
What: Meditative prayer service
When: 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati Ave.
Original Print Headline: Taize services embrace silence
Bill Sherman 918-581-8398
Brother James Patrick Hall (left) takes a moment to meditate during the Taize prayer service at Church of the Resurrection on Thursday. JOEY JOHNSON/For the Tulsa World
The altar is seen during the Taize prayer service at Church of the Resurrection on Thursday. JOEY JOHNSON/For the Tulsa World
Cathy Peppito reads a Scripture during the service at Church of the Resurrection. JOEY JOHNSON/For the Tulsa World