Monroe Episcopal church invites community to Taize service

A unique worship service with roots tracing back to Europe's recovery after World War II will take place at St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Monroe on Jan. 22 at 5 p.m. Known as a Taize (pronounced "tah-zay") service, this worship experience is open to all people of faith or even those without any and is noted in particular for its unstructured design.

"Sometimes people will light a candle," St. Alban's music director Dan Marineau said. "Some are used to kneeling and others prefer to sit. It's really very unstructured as far as what you should do at (any given) moment. There are periods of meditation. Scripture will be read. There'll be songs. We'll take it all in. It's an inward thing we're trying to do."

Marineau, who has held such services at St. Alban's for the past four years, also held similar services in Covington when he was at Good Shepherd Episcopal.

"It's a very contemplative kind of service," he said. "There's no sermon or communion. There is prayer... I think when you look inside of yourself and in a contemplative nature, you have a different perspective on worship and your relationship with God."

The Taize service gets its name from the small village of Taize in the Burgundy region of France where a monastic community was founded in 1940 by the Swiss-born Brother Roger.

The once peaceful island experienced the traumas of World War II, and was a place of help as Brother Roger hid refugees, particularly Jews, who fled the occupied zone of France across the demarcation line which was a short distance from his home.

When the war ended, Brother Roger and monks, in 1949 made a commitment to a life of monastic community, simplicity and spiritual and material sharing. Today, Taize continues to be a place of pilgrimage and peace for people of faith.

The Taize service comes from ancient liturgical Christian traditions as it offers a meditative prayer service with simple, repetitive songs and chants. Scripture readings and moments of silence in a setting of soft light is designed to help the worshiper commune with God.

The songs come from the Psalms or other spiritual texts and were written by Brother Jacques Berthier and can be sung in English, Latin or French.

"It started in the monastery there and the monks decided there were so many visitors there they wanted to have a place for them to meditate and pray," Marineau said. "The monks put simple songs together. It's mean to be like a mantra. You repeat it. It makes for an atmosphere that helps you get into a state of mind to meditate and pray."

There are no announcements, no sermon and minimal verbal explanations which encourages participants to listen to the voice within.

"The whole essence of the service is to commune with God in a quiet way," Marineau said. "People of different ethnicities and religions can gather and find a commonality and find the quietness to pray and meditate."

Marineau said one woman who was asked to make cookies for a reception following an earlier Taize service he presented. She had not planned to come to the service, but dropped in after she left her cookies and decided to stay. She got so much out of the service she immediately called a friend and told her she had to come the next time a Taize service was held.

Marineau said Taize services at his church are held every four months or so. The Taize service at St. Alban's begins with a sanctuary lit by candles and silence except when songs are sung by worshipers or music played by a cello, guitars, violin, flute and piano.

There will be simple chants repeated time, such as "Bless the Lord my soul and bless God's holy name. Bless the Lord my soul, that leads me into life." The words are repeated and the words become a prayer.

St. Alban's invites those who seek peace, those who want to pray and those who wish to experience quiet contemplation to come to this month's Taize service in the church sanctuary located at 210 N. Broad Street in Monroe.

Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.