Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Faithing in Chicago: Taize Services

Taizé - Nada te turbe

Our community has participated in a variety of forms of prayer. We have attended retreats where we were taught contemplative prayer. We have a monthly Day of Prayer in which we close down the office and ministry center and pray together. We are ecumenical and therefore bring to our working culture a rich tradition of individual and corporate prayer. We attended the World AIDS Day service which was a structured liturgy with speech choir. I have attended Pentecostal churches in which prayer is a full body experience. At the Chicago Islamic Center I observed men pray individually while among many and also pray as one corporate body. However, by far my favorite new form of prayer is attending Taize Worship services.

Madonna del Strada Chapel Loyola University

I have been attending Taize services at Loyola University. These are abbreviated services. They last a half hour. Still, the setting is wonderful, a white art deco church with gold Stations of the Cross. The sanctuary pulls your eyes forward toward the altar. However, should you walk out the back door you finding yourself looking down at Lake Michigan. It is a wonderful setting for prayer and contemplation.

I love the simple chants of Taize, the repetition, and the use of sound and light. I love that it is an ecumenical service. At Loyola I find that while the setting with its stain glass windows, Stations of the Cross and candles are breath-taking, I have a difficult time keeping my eyes open. I am not sleepy at all, it is just, as soon as the music begins to play I close my eyes and focus on the chants and the feeling of unity. I must appear as conditioned as a Pavlovian dog!

After attending four services at Loyola Bethany and I went with Laura from Emmaus and her friend Joel to Oak Park to attend a much larger Taize Service. The service was at the Ascension Catholic Church. The church was full. It was incredible to realize that there were so many different Christian traditions represented in the room. When the alleluias were song for the Gospel reading and the candles were all lit the room glowed. So many people, so many voices and so many points of light. I loved when everyone proceeded to the front of the church and placed their candles in the clay pots. I appreciate experiencing something in a concrete manner and this night the Body of Christ was visibly present.

Taize at Ascension Catholic Church in Oak Park Illinois

This has been a sabbatical focused on working with homeless men who participate in prostitution. I have learned a great deal of risk factors, typologies, medical considerations and exploitation. I have become familiar with a large body of literature on various forms of prostitution.

However, this has also been a time of personal growth, of pilgrimage and contemplation. I have loved being exposed to a variety of prayer forms, even if I would not choose to use them. The experience that integrates all of my experiences and that nourishes me is Taize worship. I view human behavior holistically and I am learning that being grounded spiritually has a strong impact on my ability to serve others. Now the challenge will be to find Taize services in my little part of the world.

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