Unique Taizé worship services offer songs, quiet

By Sergio Legorreta

Students and faculty gathered Thursday in the Armstrong Browning Library for a Taizé worship service, an opportunity offered by Spiritual Life for prayer and reflection once a semester.

Taizé worship services began last year as an opportunity for students, staff and faculty to pray in a contemplative and peaceful way, especially for those who might have been unable to attend Chapel services.

Carlos Colón, coordinator of worship initiatives, and Dr. Burt Burleson, university chaplain, led the Taizé worship service.

Colón said silence is an important part of Taizé worship, as the moments of silence allow one to reflect on Scripture and offer prayers.

The Taizé community has a particular Christian tradition of prayer and song, originating from Taizé, France, when Brother Roger Schutz founded an ecumenical monastic order.

But Colón said the uniqueness of Taizé services lies in more than silence. Taizé services are unique because they are song services.

“The songs are the prayers,” Colón said. “It reminds me of the words of St. Augustine, ‘He who sings prays twice.’”

Colón said the songs in Taizé worship are generally short and simple so that they are accessible and can be remembered. They have short, repeated phrases, often from Scripture. Some consist of only one or two words.

Burleson said the nature of the songs allows them to be contemplative.

“It focuses you,” he said. “It sets an idea in your head so the heart picks up on that truth.”

Prayers and readings from Scripture were also interspersed between songs and descants with Scripture verses were featured in some songs.

In the past, Taizé worship services were held once a month. Burleson said the reduction in service came due to faculty and staff’s busy schedules.

“It’s hard to take a moment and receive this blessing of prayer,” Burleson said.

Colón said, however, the very idea behind Taizé is to take time away from the busyness of our lives to listen to God.

“It is difficult to listen to God when there is so much noise in our lives,” Colón said.

Colón also said the Taizé tradition is meant to be inclusive to different traditions and languages. The service featured singing in Spanish and Latin as well as English.

“In Taizé services, it’s not uncommon to hear singing in Latin, English, Portuguese, French, and other languages at the same time,” Colón said.

Burleson said the Taizé tradition seems to have also caught on worldwide in churches.

“You will see Taizé choruses in every hymnal published in recent years,” Burleson said. “It has become part of the liturgy.”

Another opportunity for prayer will be an Advent Service on Dec. 4 featuring original compositions.