I'm glad that Christianity Today unlocked its archives for this article about "Learning the Ancient Rhythms of Prayer: Why charismatics and evangelicals, among others, are flocking to communities famous for set prayers and worshiping by the clock." I found it linked to this week's CT Weblog, which has many other links to stories about Brother Roger, his community, and its music.
The singing is powerful, I can attest to that. I'd heard about the Taizé community for many years before, but it was only a bit over ten years ago in Cave Creek, Arizona, when someone made me sit down and listen to this recording that she had. Even on that tinny little box, I could tell that there was a special quality to the songs and to her enthusiasm for them.
Fast forward to 2002. We began arranging informal worship meetings on Monday evenings at Reedwood, using Taizé and Vineyard-style songs as well as silence, readings, and brief reflections instead of sermons. Eventually we decided to offer monthly Taizé services as part of our Monday worship calendar. After I left for England, they stopped for a while, but they've been restarted. (Not on Mondays anymore; if you're interested in attending, call the Reedwood office, 503-234-5017, for schedule information, or see the calendar that's linked to www.reedwood.org.)
For me, part of being a Quaker has been a fairly stern attitude toward liturgy or, for that matter, any programming that purports to do our spiritual work for us. Our purpose in gathering for worship is to know that "Christ has come to teach his people himself," not to have someone up front arrange an esthetic shortcut or mediate that experience. I cannot explain the attractiveness of the Taizé chants for me by any sort of theory, just the sweetness of the intention and the graciousness of holding that intention together with others.
It's not everything that I need. For one thing, it's all heart and little if any ass; sometimes I need a different ratio. (More about that here.) But, oh, I love that aching clarity:
Stay with us O Lord Jesus Christ
Night will soon fall
Then stay with us O Lord Jesus Christ
Light in our darkness.
I appreciate and echo the last words of Ruth Gledhill's article in The Times: "Christians worldwide will be praying that Brother Roger’s death will not silence his song of reconciliation, beauty and peace." The song will go on.