I went to the most moving and beautiful Taize evening prayer service in Brooklyn last night at the Park Slope United Methodist Church. After 45 minutes of silence, prayer, and chant, I left the sanctuary infused with God’s spirit, prepared for Good Friday and Easter.
A Taize service is appealing to anyone who loves early Christianity, monastic prayer and chant. The original Taize monastic community was founded in Taize, France, after World War II, when a young seminary student named Brother Roger Schultz founded a religious order that offered hospitality, refuge, and reconciliation after World War II.
As praying with the brothers of Taize became acknowledged as a restful, rejuvenating thing to do, Taize-styled services have cropped up in different parts of the world and become most popular in urban areas.
Last night’s darkened Methodist sanctuary was lit by the glow of dozens of votive candles. A large wooden cross stood before us with a dark scarf draped over it. Some people sat on the floor, others nestled together in the front pews. One woman played the piano, another played harmonies on flute. Within the intensely compact service, there were long stretches of silence and reflection followed by gorgeous readings and chants. It felt like my kind of church, and I intend to go back.
The closing chant, which was repeated several times, went like this:
By night, we hasten, in darkness,
To search for living water,
Only our thirst leads us onwards,
Only our thirst leads us onwards.
I swept out of there, into a night rain, feeling much less thirsty than when I went in. You’ll find recordings of the actual prayers and chants from Taize here. Pick one, and have a listen.
Here’s a guide to finding a Taize prayer service at a church near you. Some congregations offer them only on special occasions, others host them regularly.