Live Streaming of Services                                     Browse recent sermons

A Sermon Preached by Tyler Nadrich at 
Clarence Presbyterian Church on June 17, 2018.

Psalm 96

         In May, I took a trip to a monastery in Southern France through my college. I am the accompanist and music director for the protestant service at Nazareth College. Once a month, we put on a Taizé service at Nazareth. My chaplain traveled to Taizé last year and decided she wanted to bring people with her this year. She put out an application to all of campus inviting anyone on this trip. I applied and went through an interview, but didn’t expect to be chosen because I was a freshman. A few weeks later, I received an email saying out of 38 applicants I was 1 of 10 selected to take the pilgrimage to Taizé. 

I knew about the Taizé service and what it was like, but I didn’t know what Taizé was. Taizé is an ecumenical Christian monastic community composed of more than 100 brothers, originating from about 30 countries across the world. It was founded in 1940 by Brother Roger. Over 100,000 young people from around the world make pilgrimages to Taizé each year for prayer, bible study, sharing and communal work. Taizé encourages them to live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation.  

The trip to Taizé was not easy. We met in Rochester and took a 3 hour bus ride to the Toronto airport, then a 6 ½ hour flight to the Charles Du Gaulle airport in France, then a 1 hour bus ride to our hotel in Paris. We spent 2 days in Paris and when it came time to travel to Taizé, we took an hour and a half train ride then a 3 hour bus ride until we finally made it to the village. Once we got there we received our meal tickets, our job assignments, and our sleeping assignments. There were two choices of where you could sleep. You could bring your own tent and sleep in it (many people did that) or you could sleep in the barracks. The barracks were small, very tight rooms with 12 bunk beds. My group stayed in a room, and 2 German girls were placed in our room as well in order to use up as much space as possible. 

Taizé encourages simplicity, especially when it came to meals. We ate very minimally. Breakfast everyday was a piece of bread, butter, 2 sticks of dark chocolate the size of your finger and a cup of tea, which turned out to just be sugar and water. Everything in Taizé was outdoors. So, in order to eat you had to wait outside in lines. Once enough people volunteered to help clean up after the meal, we could begin to receive our food. It was assembly line style. Once it was your turn to eat, someone marked your meal card. Then one by one people dropped 2 pieces of bread, a spoonful of the main dish, a piece of fruit, some sort of protein (which was typically a piece of cheese), a dessert (typically a wafer or cookie) and a bowl for water. Meals weren’t bad in my opinion. Tea time was at 5:00 which was a good break for a snack so you were never hungry. I quite enjoyed the meals because I enjoy the simplistic lifestyle. 

I adjusted to life at Taizé quickly. I woke up around 7:30 and left for church at 7:45. Morning service began at 8:20. Taizé is famous for their bells that go off every hour. They also play 10 minutes before the church service begins. People tended to get to church very early to get a good seat. The church was massive. The brothers came in on their own time before the bells stopped ringing. They sat in the middle section and people sat around and behind them. Everyone sat on the ground; there were no chairs. The morning service was typically 45 minutes long and we partook in the Eucharist every morning. After worship, we went and had breakfast. At 10:00 you either went to bible group or went to work. I had bible study at 10am. We met with a brother who talked to us for an hour about the scripture of the day and then answered any questions we had. We then broke up into small groups based upon our age. In small groups we had questions to answer about our scripture and we talked and got to know each other more by playing games. After small group, we went to midday service at 12:15. My group was close so we went to church together. After church was lunch, and then work at 3. My job was to sweep. 5:00 was tea time and dinner was at 6. Any free time we had where we didn’t have anything scheduled was free time for us to do whatever we wanted. We had church again at 7:30. After the service you could stay and sing more, go to sleep or go to the Oyak, a concession stand like place where everyone hung out. After the service at night, when you left you were not supposed to talk. It was time for you to ponder the service and walk in silence. It was beautiful to experience a large mass of people in complete silence instead of running around talking about what their plans were for the rest of the night. Once you got down to the Oyak, if that was your plan, you were able to talk again.

Taizé was inspiring. It felt like such a holy place. Everyone was at Taizé for the same reason. No matter what age or where they came from, they were there to worship. I had friends that could be crazy fun to hang out with but when it came time for church, they became serious. Everyone was at Taizé because they clearly wanted to get closer with God and have their questions answered. Being with people who truly cared for God and cared about understanding the meaning of everything was something I’ve never experienced before. Taizé has a signature form of prayer. They practice 10 minutes of silence every service. That’s 30 minutes of silence a day. There’s also an option for people who want to stay at Taizé in silence all week. We had two people from my group try it. They were completely separate from everyone else and lived a different life style. For me, going into it I was scared of the 10 minutes of silence because as many of you know, I can barely stay quiet for more than 30 seconds. The more I learned about prayer and the more I learned to respect the silence, the closer I found myself getting to God. I began to love the silence. Sometimes, I would stay praying for even longer than the 10 minutes. I found myself, I found questions and I found answers in the silence. 

Another thing I found holy was a place in the village called the Source. The Source is a lake and grass land area that was completely silence. The journey down there is about a 40 minute walk through the woods. Along the way are alters and candles and prayers you can recite. Once at the Source, there is a path around the lake with a wooden bridge through the middle and all you can hear are animals. Everyone respects the silence. Everything feels at peace at the Source. It’s a beautiful way to connect with nature. 

Finally, the most holy thing about Taizé, in my opinion, was the church at night. The first night at Taizé I went to the Oyak and then went to bed right away. The next day, my friend told me to go to the church after the Oyak closes. I did, and I experienced the most beautiful part of Taizé. People were there just singing. They never left. I sat and prayed and sang and chanted until 2:30 in the morning. The rest of the nights I returned to the church. Some days I didn’t even leave after the service ended and I stayed until 2:30-3ish in the morning. I was told that people don’t leave. They stay until worship the next morning. I even saw people sleep in the church. The beauty in all of it was that they never stopped singing. There were no brothers, only people who made the pilgrimage out to Taizé, leading songs and chants. It was during these hours that I felt closest to God. I prayed for hours, through prayer, singing and chanting. I felt open to talk to Him, question Him even. I learned so much in those nights. 

The chants were big in Taizé. We sing and chant all service. 80% of the service is singing and chanting. It is beautiful. The chants were very short but lasted a long time. They lasted anywhere from 3 ½ minutes- 6 minutes of saying the same thing over and over again. They were minimal and sung in many different languages. There were multiple services where no English was spoken at all. We chanted in English, Spanish, German, Italian, French, and Latin. 

This experience brought me closer to God. Living a simple life put me more in touch with myself, my own feelings, my own beliefs. I felt open to question things, question God’s presence in my life and felt open to receive answers. I was able to speak to a brother and ask him questions and he not only answered them but taught me to open my heart. We talked about prayer and silence and why God makes the decisions He does. I’ve never felt more open about my spirituality than I have when I was in Taizé. I learned how silence can open your eyes and your heart to God. I learned who I am as a child of God. I learned it’s okay to question things. And I learned how to love. How to love God and myself. And I will continue to take what I learned from this journey to further my spirituality and become closer with God.