Tag Archives: Taize

Tweeting in the Pews

Before I even get to talking about the sessions, one interesting point to discuss about the Christian New Media conference is that they actively encouraged people to tweet about the sessions and the conference.

This seemed pretty successful such that people unable to attend the conference could keep up with what was going on. Indeed given that they were using Twitterfall to show the traffic this produced a couple of amusing moments such as the point they switched the feed to the big screen just as Mum tweeted that she was going back to doing the ironing tagged with #CNNAC11!

However the encouragement to tweet was backed up with some grumbling from people about it being frowned upon tweeting in church – the implication being that it was fuddy-duddy type attitudes to object. But is it?

It’s useful to just revisit some of the reasons churches object to tech – the most common restrictions being please turn off your phone and please don’t take pictures during the service. Both have come about from experience, for example I can think of a number of occasions where times of silence and prayer have been interrupted by a mobile phone (on at least one occasion owned by the priest) and certainly several weddings that have ended up like paparazzi photo sessions with all the flash photography. From there we got to asking people to silence their phones and not use flash, but it was pretty quickly realised that many people struggle to understand their gadgets such that they don’t know how to silence them or disable the automatic flash. As a result it’s now all phones off and no photography at all.

I’d suggest that most techies can manage to enable silent mode and disable the flash – however given that we can do that should we then be live tweeting the sermon?

To be honest I’d say no. Part of the point of a service is to provide a separate space, away from the world outside to focus on the spiritual. Certainly you may consider outside through the sermon, or the prayers, but ultimately most people there are focusing on God. As was highlighted by some of the speakers the idea of a sabbath time away from work applies just as much as a time away from the noise of the online world.

As people who experience Taizé for the first time discover, silence is a very powerful way to focus, and it is something that is little used in many services, let alone in the Christian world online.

A Taste of Taizé

The Church at Taizé by RTPeat, on FlickrI was actually on iTunes trying to find if the Church of England were repeating their podcasting of the General Synod again – unfortunately not, they seem to have decided that making the proceedings available for download in a PC only format is better this year, hard luck for those of us using Mac’s!

Anyway, what I did find was that new for 2008, the Taizé Community have started a couple of podcasts. The first is their own, which is called Prayer from the Taizé Community, and is a ten minute weekly extract from one of their services. For those who are aware of the usual structure of their services it picks up from the Alleluia/Psalm, includes the reading in multiple languages, and then includes a couple more songs and prayers. If you want something a bit more for your Taizé fix, Domradio, a Catholic radio station in Cologne is retransmitting a complete recording of the Saturday evening service, which is also available on iTunes (although not surprisingly labelled in German).

In both cases the podcasts are a fairly good representation of a service at Taizé, so if you’re either thinking about joining a trip in the coming months, or perhaps want a little reminder, they are a great way to get a taster of the whole experience.

Taizé 2007

The Church at Taizé

We’ve just returned from a week spent near the Taizé community in France. As with our previous trips we weren’t staying on site, but instead in a friends cottage a few miles away, allowing us to combine attending services at the community with visits to various local sights – rather a lot of which were churches though…

One of the questions that several people have asked is whether the community is any different after the death of Brother Roger, who although he was going to retire as prior of the community anyway later that year was killed during the prayer service on August 16th, 2005. His designated successor, Brother Alois took over, and has been prior ever since.

Firstly there have been some subtle changes, for example at services Brother Roger used to sit right in the corner of the monks area. Brother Alois still sits towards the back, but the lectern is now where Brother Roger used to sit. It is also noticeable that Brother Alois is not right at the back. He sits in the centre, but about a row forward, with six fellow brothers on either side, and an area containing directly behind him. I’m not sure whether it is a deliberate rearrangement for security, but although it is only really noticeable when you think about it, during the services at least, Brother Alois is a little further away from the public. To be honest any real security would be unnecessarily intrusive, so it just seems like a sensible step.

One other change that in my opinion is certainly for the better, is there isn’t the almost cult following that used to surround Brother Roger. Reading about him, you realise how humble the man was, and how much he wanted to avoid a cult of personality growing around him. However one of my abiding memories of previous visits were the crush of people that surrounded him after services, wanting his blessing. Brother Alois is significantly less well known, so although after services there is still a queue of people wanting his blessing, the impression is much more ordered and a lot less like the pressing crowds that used to occur with Brother Roger.

Having said that, Brother Roger is still very much present through his books in the shop, and of course in the ecumenical spirit that remains. The passing of Brother Roger certainly doesn’t seem to have dispelled the popularity of the community with thousands of people on site, and the church full for services.

With regards to the services, there was the familiar mix of old and new chants, making you pretty much feel at home if you’d been before.

Perhaps the biggest annoyance this time was perhaps a result of the rise of the cheap digital camera in that they have a significant problem with people ignoring the flash photography ban. There are (and always have been) signs at the door to the Church asking for photographs not to be taken, in much the same way that at St James people attending weddings are asked not to take flash photographs during the service. Despite this people are taking photographs during the services all the time it seems – indeed we sat behind one group of older people who even when one of the ushers came over to ask them to stop taking pictures tried to take pictures around him! Of course the ironic thing is that using flash in the conditions inside the Church during a service is going to result in a pretty lousy picture anyway, as the flash won’t illuminate what they’re trying to take a picture of anyway. I certainly think that particularly at moments such as the prayers around the cross on Friday night, the atmosphere gets blown by the multiple flash bulbs that occur when the brothers move to the cross. (Incidentally, the shot above was taken about half-an-hour before a lunchtime service, without flash.)

So in answer to the original question, I think I can safely say that the Taizé Community continues despite the death of Brother Roger – and certainly the experience is much the same as it has always been. Any concern that it might change after the events of 2005 don’t seem to have materialised.

New Bishop – New Media

Usually when you get a communication from the Bishop to the people of the Diocese, it’s in the form of a letter, one that quite often gets read out at the main Sunday service in amongst the notices. The new Bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard seems to be trying something a bit different, with a video message posted on the Internet.

True the style is a bit static, sort of like an old style party political broadcast, but it is quite a good message – starting off with a quote from Woody Allen, and imparting the shocking revelation that there are Christians who support Chelsea

With my new role as Churchwarden, I’m actually going to get to meet the man in person sooner than I expected, as I have to head in to Reading next month for the Bishop’s Visitation. Since he is also leading the Oxford Taizé Pilgrimage which overlaps with our trip there this summer we’ll probably meet him again then too.

If you’re not into video clips, the text of the message is on the website too.

Taizé 2007 Plans

After a slight bit of confusion (Beth has been deleting the e-mails on the basis that I was getting them as well – which I wasn’t) we’ve got hold of the details for the Oxford Diocese Pilgrimage to Taizé for 2007. Unfortunately the official trip won’t be there at the same time as us, as there was only one slot available at the cottage where we usually stay, but there is a couple of days overlap, so we might run in to some familiar faces during our visit! It looks like this years Diocesan Pilgrimage should be memorable though as alongside Sarah who has led the trips since Rev Sheila died a few years back, the new Bishop of Oxford, Rt Rev John Pritchard will be going along as well. Sarah has set up an Oxford Taizé site with further information.

The Death of Brother Roger

The last few days of our holiday we were out of touch with internet connections and sources of news, so it was quite a surprise to find details of coaches to get to the funeral of Brother Roger at Taize. Initially we thought he had just passed away from old age, with him seeming extremely frail when he appeared in public.

However on reading further we were really shocked to find out that rather than passing away peacefully, he had been brutally murdered during a Taize service in front of thousands of people.

I had commented on a number of occasions when we had visited Taize on Brother Rogers personal following, with many of the pilgrims wanting to specifically meet him. Balanced against this was his increasing frailty, resulting in Brother Roger not holding private meeting, which according to reports was part of the reason for the attack. I guess that as with assasination attempts on other significant religious figures such as the Pope, the large amount of publicity inevitably leads to increased risks of attacks such as this. Whilst he could have been protected by guards and the like, and be kept separate from the people, that is exactly the opposite of what he, and the Taize community is about. Indeed shortly after his death the community was praying for peace.

In the face of violence, we can respond only by peace. Brother Roger never stopped insisting on this. Peace requires a commitment of our whole being, inwardly and outwardly. It demands our whole person. So this evening, let us communicate peace to one another, and do everything we can so that each person stays in hope.

Even with Brother Rogers passing, the community will continue. I’m also sure that people will continue to come to see Brother Roger, in much the same way as people visit the places where other religious leaders have died before. I’m also quite sure that, in the same way that the previous Pope visited and forgave his attempted assasin, as Brother Roger always insisted, the ministry of peace and reconcilliation will be extended by the remaining brothers to the woman who so brutally took Brother Roger’s life this week.