This coming Sunday, our church will sing a modified version of a Taizë worship song, “Holy Spirit, Come to Us.” Songs from Taizë are generally simple, short choruses based on the Bible. In the original Taizë community, these worshipful, chant-like songs are sung over and over again multiple times. Here is a recording of the original version of “Holy Spirit, Come to Us.”
But what is Taizë? In the spring of 1940, the German army overran the defenses of France, bypassing what was thought to be the impenetrable Maginot Line, shattering the confidence of the French people. Roger Louis Schütz-Marsauche, who was raised in a Swiss Protestant Reformed family, was absolutely stunned by the overwhelming power of Nazi Germany’s military might. But he believed that God was much bigger than the Nazi war machine. He rode on a bicycle to the small town of Taizë in unoccupied France near Switzerland, where he spent two years hiding Jewish refugees from the grip of the Nazis. He was forced to leave Taizë for a few years, but “Brother Roger” was able to return in 1944 to start a small community of men committed to living in poverty, chastity, and obedience. From that time forward, “Brother Roger” and his band of like-minded were committed to a quest for reconciliation in the spirit of Christ.
Over the years, along with other refugees, tens of thousands of young people from all over the world have come to visit the community. What is particularly unique about Taizë is the ecumenical nature of the community, Protestants and Catholics, all living together in a monastic style focused around prayer, work and hospitality. But the most profound influence of Taizë is the music.
Various churches around the world offer Taizë services that can give you a taste of how meditative music and silence is practiced in the original Taizë community. In the Richmond, Virginia area, the Richmond Hill Retreat Center at 2209 East Grace Street offers a Taizë prayer service on the first Monday of every month at 7:30pm.