St. Stephen’s invites all to Taizé services from France

MIDDLEBURY — St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Middlebury will offer a series of Lenten services inspired by the beautiful, chant-like music of the Taizé Community, an ecumenical, multicultural monastery in France.
All are invited to attend.
All services will be on Wednesday evenings, from Feb. 17 through March 16, starting at 7 p.m.
“From the depth of the human condition,” wrote Brother Roger, the founder of the Taizé Community, “a secret aspiration rises up. Caught up in the anonymous rhythms of schedules and timetables, men and women of today are implicitly thirsting for the one essential reality: an inner life, signs of the invisible.
“Prayer is a serene force, a work within human beings, stirring them up, transforming them, never allowing them to close their eyes in the face of evil, of wars, of all that threatens the vulnerable of this world. From it we draw the energy to wage other struggles — to enable our loved ones to survive, to transform the human condition, to make the earth a place fit to live in.”
St. Stephen’s is offering the Taizé series as a weekly way to deepen the experience of Lent — the 40 days leading up to Easter. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10 this year, which St. Stephen’s marked with the traditional imposition of ashes. Lent — named after the lengthening of days that leads with the growing spring to Easter — is traditionally a time of prayer, self-reflection and spiritual renewal, a way of “spring cleaning the soul.” Lent continues through Easter Eve, which this year is Saturday, March 26, marked by a fire-lit vigil. Easter Sunday is March 27.
Taizé services are built around singing, silence and prayerful contemplation. Often the services are lit almost entirely by candlelight and focused around a simple altar or collection of images. The Taizé Community has developed a style of worship that is simple and powerful, and Taizé services can now be found around the world.
St. Stephen’s officials emphasized that Taizé is multi-denominational and nondogmatic. Though built on song, the service is simple and focuses on prayer, joy and healing, not on performance. In Taizé, music is a form of prayer, and no special ability is required.
The Taizé Community began in France during World War II, when founder Roger Schütz, who came to be known, simply, as Brother Roger, wanted to create a place of safety and refuge amidst the horrors of that war. Today, the village of Taizé, near Cluny, France, is a site of pilgrimage for hundreds of thousands from all over the world, especially young people, who come to sing and pray together and live in kindness, reconciliation and simplicity.
“Taizé is a simple yet powerful approach to worship,” said Jack DesBois, one of the organizers of the St. Stephen’s worship series and a recent Middlebury College graduate. “And because it is based on music, it speaks directly to the heart. The candlelight together with the repetition and the music and just being together create a real place of joy and help you feel in God’s presence.”
The Lenten services at St. Stephen’s will be sung mostly in English, with a little bit of Latin. Many Taizé services reflect the multicultural roots of this worship community by offering songs in a multiplicity of languages.
To learn more about the Taizé Community go online to: www.taize.fr. To listen to an example of Taizé worship, accompanied by photos from the Taizé Community, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmxXwAgkhWQ.
For more information about the upcoming Lenten Taizé services, contact the St. Stephen’s main office at 388-7200.

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