Taize monk to lead BU in prayer

By Reubin Turner

Staff Writer

The Spiritual Life department will hold two prayer services this week in the Foyer of Meditation in the Armstrong Browning Library in addition to a prayer service which took place Monday.

Beginning at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday, students will have the opportunity to rest, worship and pray at this free event designed for young adults. The events are facilitated by Brother Emmanuel of the Taize community.

Taize, a Christian ecumenical monastery established in 1940 by Brother Roger Schutz, was created to promote peace, justice and equality among people of different cultural and backgrounds.

Made up of Catholics and other monks of various Protestant backgrounds, the primary purpose of the Taize community is to be “a sign of reconciliation between divided Christians and between separated peoples,” according to their website.

Located in the mountains of Burgundy, France, more than 30,000 youth and young adults from various countries around the world travel each year to the community to participate in worship and prayer. Known for their unique music and forms of worship, the monastery has grown to become one of the most popular pilgrimage sites for Christians, including both Catholic and Protestant church leaders such as Pope John Paul II and French philosopher and theologian Paul Ricoeur.

Baylor students have visited the Taize community in France twice in the past two years to experience this unique worship opportunity. This is the first time a member of the Taize community has come to the university to visit students that have visited the community and to give students who have experienced the community a chance to see the worship style.

Jared Slack, coordinator for Chapel and worship, said the ideals and principles of unity which are practiced and taught within the community greatly coincide with the mission and beliefs of the university.

“There’s a definitely a growing trend around the world that shows the growing interest of people from all walks of life to worship with people who might not share the exact same interest as them,” Slack said.

He said university ministries like Vertical Ministries, created to give college students in Waco the opportunity to worship together as a unified community regardless of denomination, shows the effect impact communities like Taize are having on the world.

According to Dr. Burt Burleson, the university chaplain, one of the aspects of the Taize community is their style of worship.

It is one that encourages meditation and prayer. Burleson also said this has been one of the primary reasons so many are drawn to the monastery.

“I believe what happens in Taize shows that there is a want from people around the world to develop a deeper line of communication with God, which occurs in this community through a contemplative path of meditation and silence,” he said.

He said one of the unique qualities of the monastery is that they are not bound by traditional monastic practices generally associated with the Eastern Orthodox Church.

“Taize definitely has been responsive to the changing needs of generations since its founding in 1940,” he said.

This style, which includes the singing of distinctive and repetitious prayer chants, highlights simple phrases from Psalms and other relevant passages from the scriptures. The phrases, which are repeated aloud or sung in canon, help to encourage meditation and prayer.

This worship style, although initially unique to Taize, has become more prevalent in churches, retreat centers and seminaries throughout the world, according to an article published by the British Broadcasting Corp.

Emmanuel, a monk within the monastery since 1991, said it was this form of worship that allowed him to deepen his relationship with God and ultimately make the lifelong commitment to join the monastery.

Emmanuel, who was raised in France as a Catholic, said friends invited him to Taize when he was 15 for prayer.

He said it was after this visit that he made the decision to come back once a year.

During one of the evening services, Emmanuel said he was moved so deeply to make the decision to dedicate himself for a lifelong commitment to the monastery.

Roger Schutz’s teaching on God’s unconditional love spoke to my spirit, and I knew that I wanted to live in a way as to communicate this unconditional love back to God,” Emmanuel said.

He said it is this teaching of God’s unconditional love seems to embody the spirit of Taize.

Emmanuel said he hopes bringing a portion of this experience to Baylor through the university’s spiritual life will inspire more students to develop a deeper relationship with God and explore the dimensions of their faith.