London Friday 10 March
Nearly 300 people and a couple of high-school groups participated in the prayer at St James Piccadilly. Rev. Lucy Winkett, rector of the church, gave a meditation on Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus (John 3). The prayer around the cross lasted long afterwards.
In the first two weeks of February one of the brothers will be making visits in Birmingham and more widely in order, among other things, to encourage the participation of young Asian Christians in the Hidden Treasure weekend. You can invite him by writing to taizebirmingham gmail.com.
Sheffield Weekend 14-16 October
For 18-35 year-olds, from 5pm Friday to lunchtime Sunday. Saturday evening prayer in Sheffield Cathedral.
Two brothers of the community were in Coventry to participate in the 2016 AASSH Conference for Church of Eng;and Secondary School Headteachers.
Anne Christin and Daniela, two of the long-stay volunteer team at Taizé spent 9-30 May in Birmingham as part of early preparations for the Hidden Treasure weekend there next year.
- Daniela and Ann Christin
Birmingham Weekend: 16-17 April
The Carr’s Lane Community hosted a weekend titled The Courage of Mercy. Open to young adults (15 - 35 years old) with prayers in the style of the Taizé Community, shared meals, workshops and opportunities to discuss and reflect.
More photos from the weekend are on Facebook
London Weekend: 4-5 March
A prayer around the Cross at Oasis Church, Waterloo, on Friday evening, 4 March, at which Steve Chalke gave an address, was continued the next day with morning prayer and meetings for a group of young adults and students. The weekend was prepared in cooperation with the Student Christian Movement (SCM) and OASIS.
A report on the weekend is on the SCM website
More photos from the weekend are on Facebook
In November, Pauline and Rebekka, two long-stay volunteers at Taizé made visits in England, mostly in North-East England and in the London area.
They were welcomed on their arrival in London by the youth group of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church, Peckham, where they stayed for Sunday worship. During their journey they also stayed at the new Community of St George’s in East London, and with the Antioch Community, Acton (West London). They helped lead a youth group evening at Christ Church, Walker, Newcastle. And they stayed for a couple of days at the Emmaus Youth Village of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. They visited 11 secondary schools for sessions with the GCSE and 6th-form students.
Sheffield Weekend, 30 October - 1 November
A retreat for 18-35 year-olds in the style of Taizé was led by a group of young adults in Shefiield. More information on Facebook
In March, one of the brothers of the community spent two weeks in England and Scotland
In recent years there has often been a Lenten Prayer around the Cross in London. This year it was held in St George’s Catholic Cathedral, Southwark, which was one of the five large churches used for prayer during the last European Meeting in London in 1986. A large music group gathered to help us pray, including a group of young musicians from High Barnet who brought their instruments. Bernadette Farrell, gave a meditative reflection just before the cross was laid down for us to come to pray around it. Here is an extract:
“Mother Teresa claimed that there’s no such thing as a small act of love. Every act of love matters because it makes God’s presence known in the world. She said we’ve just ‘forgotten that we belong to each other.’ (...) It’s not the greatness of our faith that’s important but how we act on it. Jesus is clear that even the tiniest seed of faith will move mountains, will change everything, if we exercise it.Real change happens when we work alongside one another to reform institutions and take the risk of public action. When we begin to stand with those whose dignity is denied ... then slowly, day by day, we come closer to a community of kinship. God’s new order is already among us - it can spring up at any time and in any place, among families, among neighbourhoods, among nations. Jesus says ‘The kingdom of God is in your midst!’It’s only in our own time that we’ve really come to full, global awareness of the extent and the diversity of the human family. And with this awareness comes a new responsibility, a new understanding of the church’s place in human history. We’re called to be a sign; a sign of trust and reconciliation, a sign of the new order within the human community.”
Bernadette is a well-known hymn writer and during the prayer we sang an entirely new setting of Psalm 23 which she had composed in a style close to that of the meditative chants used in Taizé.
The next day, a weekend meeting began in Edinburgh. Participants had travelled from all over Scotland, including the islands of Arran and Tiree, from several places in England, and there were even three young people who came directly from Poland. Those who needed overnight accommodation were matched up with Edinburgh hosts. I think we were all surprised just how much we managed to pack into the Saturday afternoon/evening. The ceilidh band, Flaming Nora, some of whose members had been volunteers at Taizé in the 1980s (!), provided enjoyable instruction in the difficult art of Scottish country dancing for the last part of the evening.
There were several meetings with groups of headteachers, chaplains and RE teachers — information and planning meetings for sending school groups to participate in the youth meetings in Taizé. This summer, thanks to a grant made by the Jerusalem Trust, two documentary makers will be coming to Taizé to make a film on the School and College Weeks.
Large groups gathered for evening prayers in Preston and Birmingham. In Preston the meeting had the theme “Turning to God, turning to others” and was prepared together with the l’Arche Community who are preparing to open a new house. In Birmingham we were welcomed in the ecumenical Carr’s Lane Church by the two ministers who lead the church, and by the newly formed Carr’s Lane Lived Community who have a twice-daily prayer in the city-centre. Rev. Catherine Grylls gave a short meditation before the prayer around the Cross, ending with a prayer:
Holy GodAs we kneel at the cross of your Son, Jesus Christ,May we see and know your love for us,So that in humility, love and joy,We may place at his feetAll that we have and all that we are;Through Jesus Christ our Saviour Amen
Mary Delany, one of a group of 16 year-olds who came from Cardinal Wiseman School, wrote afterwards:
“My favourite part of the liturgy was the acceptance; everyone was accepted for who they were. We had lots of silent moments, which was very special. At the start we were all asked to move around and go and talk to someone we did not know. I found this overwhelming in a great way. I had an opportunity to talk to some people from totally different walks of life which was great. Two other pupils from Cardinal Wiseman were asked to read and sing in their own language in front of everyone.”
In Peckham Rye (South London), I met with the youth leaders of the Cherubim and Seraphim Pentecostal Church, who are planning to bring a group to Taizé in the summer. The church members are mainly ethnic Nigerians whether born in Britain or Nigeria. Hassan, one of the leaders, has already visited Taizé, but Matron Funke and Gabriel were surprised to hear that in Taizé many take off their shoes to come into church, and that the brothers are clothed in white, just as in their own church everyone takes off their shoes as a sign of respect for the sanctuary and puts on a white prayer gown! The day I visited, they were preparing a Friday night vigil to run from 10pm to 3am. Such a vigil is held each month.
During the meeting in Edinburgh, Soo Tian, a Malaysian PhD student, spoke to us all about his life with refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. He explained his own growing understanding of what it means to be in solidarity by saying something like this: “I cannot be, or pretend to be, an asylum seeker myself. But the refugees with whom I share a house are cut off in so many ways from society. By living alongside them, I can be a kind of bridge.”
- At St Chad’s Sanctuary, Birmingham
In Haringay (North London) a live-in community of just two, Johannes and Arvid, welcome around 20 refugees and asylum seekers in very simple conditions: mattresses on the floor of an old church hall. They receive support from people living in the area and are part of the network of Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality founded by Dorothy Day. Another project working with refugees that I was able to visit was St Chad’s Sanctuary in Birmingham, which is the fruit of a cooperation between the Roman Catholic Church and the Salvation Army. Some young people who have been to Taizé are part of the team of volunteers who teach English to around 70 refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants. In the class where I participated, the students were from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen and Somalia.
All these visits reminded me of words which Brother Roger used to repeat over and over again: “With almost nothing, with very little, we can live something beyond all our hopes.”
In November two young men who are long-stay volunteers at Taizé visited 22 schools in Britain intending to participate in the 2014 School and College Weeks.
- Felix and TheVu at Princethorpe College
Once per half term, a ’Taizé evening’ is held at Cardinal Newman School in Hove. The first part of the evenings is for pupils from various local schools. It involves a meeting new people, making new friends and having a time of open discussion and sharing in small groups.
The second part of the evening is for people of any age and we are often joined by a few people from local parishes. There is a time of prayer in the simple style for which Taizé is known. At the most recent evening the short bible passages was read by pupils in eight languages (Catalan, Shona, Chinese, Vietnamese, Polish, Spanish, French & English) – representing the richness of cultures and nationalities present.
- Evening at Cardinal Newman School, Hove
In March, two volunteers, Adeline (Germany) and Maria (Spain) travelled widely in England for two weeks. They visited 18 schools and took part in an evening prayer at the University of Bath.
- After the prayer at Bath University
At the same time, a brother of the community was in Britain. Highlights of his journey were the evening prayers in Cambridge (St. Edmund’s Church), Norwich (Catholic Cathedral), Birmingham (Anglican Cathedral), York University and in London (Heythrop College, and in St Alban’s Church, Holborn). There were three meetings with headteachers / chaplains / school coordinators in Salisbury and in Birmingham to talk about the School and College Weeks at Taizé. Several new schools are planning to participate in 2013 and 2014. The Jerusalem Trust has offered a grant for a documentary film to be made of the School and College Weeks and this will be made in 2014.
On 21 March, brother Alois came to Canterbury to participate in the inaugural service of Archbishop Justin Welby.
- Archbishop Justin Welby and brother Alois, 22 March 2013
©Picture Partnership/Lambeth Palace
- In St Joseph’s Anglican and Catholic High School, Wrexham, North Wales
Two pairs of volunteers from France and Germany, Lea and Maélis, then Alice and Miriam, made visits to 31 schools and 6th-form colleges which are hoping to participate in the 2013 School and College Weeks.
- Alice and Miriam
Also in November, at the invitation of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, two young people presented the international meetings at Taizé to the Conference of Scottish Catholic Secondary School Headteachers in Edinburgh.
My 10-day journey in England began at Canterbury Christ Church University. The university was originally built as a Church teacher-training college, and the chapel is one of the central buildings. When I arrived, the chaplain and a few students and staff were there, in the middle of daily morning prayer.
In 2010 more than 21,000 eighteen year olds in England took the Religious Studies A-level (school-leaving exam) – a 50% increase over 5 years. At the meeting with students who are training to become teachers of the subject, we spoke first about the common misconception is that to “be religious” is like climbing into a box which filters your experience of the world, as if you are not really open to life because you have accepted a set of pre-defined answers with which to respond to the situations you encounter.
When we realise that life is not something we can observe from outside as if we were disembodied, but rather that we are part of something much greater, then a religious outlook becomes possible. From that moment a kind of receptivity becomes basic in our outlook. For the Bible, we could even say that this is the fundamental world-view: God takes the initiative, we are responding beings before we are initiators.
- Prayer in Manchester Cathedral
After a presentation of the young adult meetings at Taizé, we were invited to gather for a midday prayer in the chapel. To our surprise more than 60 came to this quite long lunchtime prayer.
The meeting in Canterbury proved to be a good preparation for the following weekend when I participated in a conference for Religious Studies teachers. The organisers had asked for workshops about the international youth meetings at Taizé to be included in the programme. Teachers of Religious Studies in schools may be Christians, or of other faiths or not profess any faith, but for the subject it is important for religion not to be thought of as a system of ready-made answers. The subject is partly a study of different faith communities, their practice and history, but it also encourages students to consider the “big questions” of life – a phrase that I heard several times.
A week later in Manchester there was a gathering for students organised jointly with the Student Christian Movement. Brother Alois’ question in the Letter from China, “What are you doing with your freedom?” set the theme for the whole weekend and similar questions arose again: recently, in Westminster Cathedral, pope Benedict said, “One of the greatest challenges facing us today is how to speak convincingly of the wisdom and liberating power of God’s word to a world which all too often sees the Gospel as a constriction of human freedom (...)” This challenge is perhaps not just about how we tell others, it is also often difficult for us to sense that faith gives us freedom. As we face our inner questioning, and the choices we need to make, the thought may sometimes cross our mind: If only I didn’t have all these questions, hesitations – wouldn’t my life be less complicated, wouldn’t I be happier? But let us never regret the questioning and searching we have! It is a gift, not a problem. It may mean that life is difficult, but it is only with that searching inside that life can ever become beautiful and meaningful.
- The candles with the light of the resurrection, Manchester Cathedral
In Bristol it was fascinating to see the way in which chaplains in the multi-faith university chaplaincy cooperate. Soon after the daily 5 pm Christian prayer, the same room was being used for a meeting of Hindu students. In Bath, Keele and Durham there were also evening prayers with students. In Keele, the 10 pm night prayer was part of a week organised by the chaplains to invite students to use the university chapel, which stands right in the middle of the campus. The whole week was possible because of the unusual degree of friendship and cooperation which has been built between the various Christian groups in the university. In Durham the idea was to hold a mini-retreat involving not only an evening prayer, but a talk on the disciples’ request to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray”, and then a prayer followed by breakfast the next day. Everyone was surprised, I think, when a good number of students were in the church for the 8 am morning prayer!
The high point of the Manchester weekend was the Saturday evening prayer in Manchester Cathedral, where the staff welcomed us warmly and let us search everywhere in the building to collect kneelers, cushions, rugs, and prayer stools. They were all used! Around 250 people participated in the prayer. One of the university chaplains gave a bible meditation on the words of St Paul to Timothy: “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God (...) for God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-control.” This short reading was read in a dozen languages by the students participating in the weekend.
On the Sunday morning there was a short “forum” time when Grace from Ghana, Nebojša from Serbia and Ramail from Pakistan, now all students in England, shared experiences and thought from their countries. Then Anna, a young artist from London, who had led the creative workshop the day before on the theme “the responsibility to enjoy the world” introduced us to some questions linking faith and art. Later that morning the Sunday morning eucharist was celebrated in Mandarin and English in St Peter’s Chaplaincy.