The Church of Reconciliation, Taizé, France


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: The Church of Reconciliation
Location: Taizé, France
Date of visit: Sunday, 17 May 2020, 8:30pm

The building

The Church of Reconciliation was opened on 6 August 1962. It was designed by a Taizé member and architect, Brother Denis. Young Germans from Action Reconciliation Service for Peace, formed after World War II, took on the work of building it. Today's service was held in one of several oratories being used by the Brothers, whilst the main church is closed.

The church

The Community began life in 1940, and Taizé has since become one of the world's most important sites of Christian pilgrimage, with a focus on youth. Over 100,000 young people from around the world make pilgrimages to Taizé each year for prayer, Bible study, sharing, and communal work. Through the community's ecumenical outlook, they are encouraged to live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation.

The neighborhood

The beautiful rolling Burgundy countryside, famous for fine wines!

The cast

Eight of the Brothers participated – there was no obvious leader.

What was the name of the service?

Evening Prayer for the Sixth Sunday of Easter.

How full was the building?

Eight brothers, a guitar-player (not seen), and 11,316 (yes, 11,316) views on Facebook.

Did anyone welcome you personally?


Was your pew comfortable?

My dining-room chair is OK – but I'm glad I didn't have to kneel on the floor!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

The service began with a view of the bells, one of which was rung for five minutes or so, before the scene shifted to the interior of the oratory, where the assembled Brothers were waiting quietly.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

'Da pacem, Domine, da pacem, O Christe, in diebus nostris' – which the website translates into English as 'Grant us your peace, O Lord, may it fill all our days.' This was the first chant, and was followed by a sung psalm. The first spoken words were those of the Bible reading, after the psalm.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The Brothers had various bits of paper, though I suspect some of the chants were sung by heart. A PDF file was available with the order of service and links to the music and words of the chants.

What musical instruments were played?

Just a single guitar, though the player was not on screen.

Did anything distract you?

Hmm. The oratory was rather garishly decorated (as indeed is the main church), and the colours of various wall-hangings (?) were distracting – the lovely Byzantine icon of Our Lady, slightly to one side, did Not Look Right stuck on top of a table with a purple frontal sort of thing.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

The Taizé style of worship is well known: simple, repetitive chants in various languages (English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Russian this evening), along with a short Bible reading (again, in various languages) and responsorial prayers.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

No sermon! The 10-minute silence made up for the lack of words.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

I love minimalist liturgy, so I hope they have it in heaven, and the songs, prayers, and silence made a fitting end to yet another churchless COVID-19 day. It was also heavenly to think that over 11,000 other people had also joined in this service!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

The aforementioned garish fitments of the oratory weren't really hellish, but I'd like to have the chance to arrange the place myself.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?


How would you describe the after-service coffee?

A nice bottle of Italian Merlot, and some cheesy biscuits.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

7 — I'd love to visit Taizé in person (despite the multi-coloured decorations!), or just an occasional Taizé service here in the UK.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

O yes!

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The music and singing – beautifully and un-selfconsciously done. I now have an earworm or two for the week ahead!

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