Thursday, May 29, 2008

International and interdenominational

A central aspect of community life at Taize is that all Christians are welcome to worship here. I guess many Christians would say that about their worship, but at Taize they make several overtures to include Christians of various traditions and nationalities. The most obvious thing they do is that their worship is in many languages. We sing in Latin about as much as any language, which is seen as a kind of neutral European language. But the most predominant vernacular languages are French, English, and German.

It appears that Taize has worked more specifically with the Orthodox in recent years and so we have also sung in Russian a few times. I think another time we sang in Polish, which is also east, though it is Catholic. Earlier I mentioned Brother Roger, the founder of Taize, being Catholic and Reformed. I think that would describe the brothers also, meaning that some are Catholic and some are Protestant.

And so this is the most international interdenominational gathering I have ever attended. It is also not dominated by Americans, which since I spend most of my time in the USA is also a change.

The times in between worship are also opportunities to build community. Of course language is a major barrier, though it is amazing what you can communicate by knowing a word or three and some hand gestures. I had a great conversation in Spanish with some Spaniards who are Carmelite sisters in the Dominican Republic. I of course told them we had a student at our church who grew up in the Dominican.

I also had a sustained conversation with a German woman who did not speak much English. As I mentioned German is the most common language here, though half of them speak great English. She was very patient with me and I appreciated that she took the time to talk to me. We learned a little about each other and our churches and nations. This is one of the reasons learning German is important to me, it enables me to converse with people who are different from myself.

Coming from the USA, where the important language besides English is Spanish, it is strange how little Spanish is spoken here. So far I have met only a handful of Spanish speakers.

Our Bible study time also has this aspect of Pentecost language experience. We are taught by a German speaker probably because so many Germans are here. So first he teaches in German, then he translates his words into French for the small contingent of French speakers while a volunteer translates his words into English. Then while he is speaking again in German, one of the Spaniards translates from the English translation into Spanish for her Spanish companions. Talk about a holy confusion, but in fact it mostly works as long as you are willing to pay attention.

So this is a unique way of experiencing in a real way the presence of God amidst all peoples.

No comments: