Saturday, May 27, 2006

Taize Worship

Friday evening we also had the opportunity to participate in a Taize worship service here in Seoul. In 2002 I was ever so blessed to have the opportunity to spent a number of weeks in Taizé (Bourgogne [Burgundy], France), and then to meet weekly with a fellowship in Montreal during my time there.

For those of you who have never experienced Taizé: worship includes short songs, repeated many times, reading of the scripture, and extended periods of silence (5-10 minutes) for personal prayer. The community in Taizé meets three times daily for prayer, spending the rest of the day working, studying, sharing and meditating. Ecumenicism is not just a philosophy, but a way of life, as the brothers and pilgrims alike come from all branches of Christianity. There are about one-hundred brothers worldwide, of whom eighty or so live in France. Four are in Korea, others live in Senegal, Brazil, Bangladesh, Philippines and elsewhere, sharing the life of the community wherever they are.

As the community seeks reconciliation within the church, so it also seeks reconciliation among all the peoples of the world. When I was in Taizé, I witnessed moving encounters, some mediated and some spontaneous, between young people of historically opposed countries: Korea and Japan, Hungary and Romania, blacks and whites from South Africa, etc. This focus on peace has taken on new meaning for me at this time in my life, as Gordon and I are feeling so convicted of the need for Christians to practice nonviolent peacemaking and as we are living here in Korea, ever aware of the conflict.

The meeting in Seoul was hosted by Brother Anthony, who has lived in Korea now for 26 years, and attended by a dozen people. We were welcomed, and shared an intimate time of prayer and song together, despite the pounding music of a nearby nightclub. It was an especially moving occasion for me, as I have been struggling with worshipping here, unable to understand enough Korean to make anything out of a sermon, unable to read Korean fast enough to sing along to the hymns (never mind understand what I am singing!). The songs written for Taizé nearly always have lyrics in multiple languages, each song having a different combination of possibilities. Many are in Latin, English, French, Polish, Spanish, German... the list goes on. Being at Taizé for any length of time, one becomes accustomed to singing in other languages - and struck by the joy that comes when a song begins in one's native language.

Although I could not understand the Korean words, I was content to sing them, knowing what I was saying from the translation provided, and also knowing that others singing with me were enjoying the special priviledge of worshipping in their first language. The last song we sang was begun in Korean, as all the songs were. However, we did not have songsheets for it, so I began to sing in English. As we continued to sing, I realized that a man in front of me had also begun to sing in English. Next the young woman on my left joined us. Others who did not speak English continued to sing in Korean. Together, we raised our voices, languages mingling, and we worshipped God.

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