I was first introduced to Taizé services (pronounced “Tuh-Zay”)  at All Saints Church when I lived in Los Angeles, and loved these services. I was teaching at Occidental College and trying to complete a dissertation in deliciously distracting and hectic Los Angeles, so a quieter contemplative space for prayer and reflection was in order.

Fast forward 15 years when life is just as busy with work, family, and commitments littered across my week, when I learned of services coming to Champaign at Grace Lutheran Church. I reached out to find out more about their upcoming Sunday Taizé service.

Pastor Chris Repp kindly provided an explanation of the service.

Smile Politey: What are the origins of Taizé services?

Pastor Chris Repp: This style of prayer comes from the Taizé Community in France, a ecumenical monastic community founded in the 1940s in unoccupied France to help people displaced by World War II.

“Ecumenical” means that while this is an explicitly Christian community, it is not affiliated with any one branch or denomination of the faith. What characterizes Taizé prayer is the use of simple, repetitive songs based on a biblical passage, often a verse from one of the Psalms. They are typically sung in four-part harmony or in canon, and can be accompanied by a variety of instruments.

The style was developed in the 1970s when young people from all over the world began coming to Taizé in large groups, inspired by its emphasis on reconciliation and peacemaking. The idea was to provide a form of common worship that was easily accessible to people of different languages and cultures.

SP: How long have you been hosting Taizé services at Grace Lutheran?

Repp: I was first introduced to Taizé prayer by a German colleague while teaching at a Lutheran seminary in Russia 20 years ago. As a pastor here in Champaign and previously in Carbondale, I have incorporated Taizé songs into worship services and small group meetings for many years.

But two years ago when UIUC PhD candidate Jon Arnold became our music director, we took advantage of his experience with this style of prayer and began using it for our Wednesday evening services in Lent. After attending the National Workshop on Christian Unity in St. Louis this past April, where Brother Emile of Taizé was theologian in residence and led prayer three times a day, I was inspired to provide a regular opportunity in the C-U area. We came up with the second Sunday afternoon of each month as a time that worked and began offering the services in September.

SP: Why do you believe Taizé services are needed in Champaign-Urbana?

Repp:  Because it is both contemplative and accessible. Modern life gives little opportunity for quiet contemplation. Silence is practically non-existent in our daily life. This service provides a time and a space for both silence and reflection on one’s relationship with God and the world that is more visceral than intellectual. We dim the lights, place votive candles around the sanctuary, and attempt to provide an oasis of peace and calm in the presence of the divine for one hour a month.

SP: What do you hope that participants will gain from attending Taizé services at Grace Lutheran Church?

Repp: Peace, calm, and a sense of God’s presence in their lives in a non-threatening, non-demanding, welcoming atmosphere.

Image from Facebook event