Taize

A Taize service at Christ Community UMC

[Taize Community Info]

Early years

The Taizé Community was founded by Frère Roger in 1940. He pondered what it really meant to live a life according to the Scriptures and began a quest for a different expression of the Christian life. A year after this decision Roger reflected, “‘The defeat of France awoke powerful sympathy. If a house could be found there, of the kind I had dreamed of, it would offer a possible way of assisting some of those most discouraged, those deprived of a livelihood; and it could become a place of silence and work.’” Because his Swiss homeland was neutral and thus less affected by the war, he felt as if France would be ideal for his vision. For Roger, France was a “land of poverty, a land of wartime suffering, but a land of inner freedom.” He eventually settled in Taizé, which was a small desolate village just north of Cluny, the birthplace of western monasticism.

In September 1940, Roger purchased a small house that would eventually become the home of the Taizé community. Only miles south of the separation line that divided a war-torn country in half, Roger’s home became a sanctuary to countless war refugees seeking shelter. On November 11, 1942, the Gestapo occupied Roger’s house while he was in Switzerland collecting funds to aid in his refuge ministry. Roger was not able to return to his home in Taizé until the autumn of 1944, when France was liberated.

In 1941, Roger had published a few small brochures outlining several facets of a Christ-centred communal life together. These brochures prompted two young men to apply, soon followed by a third. They all lived in Switzerland in a flat owned by Roger’s family until after the war when they began a new life together in the French countryside. Over the next few years several other men would join the community. On Easter day 1949, seven brothers committed themselves to a life following Christ in simplicity, celibacy and community.

Growth of the community

In the years that followed, others joined. In 1969 a young Belgian doctor became the first Catholic brother to pledge his life to the community in Taizé. More brothers from Reformed, Anglican and Roman Catholic backgrounds joined the community. Soon the Brothers of Taizé were making trips to bring aid to people in both rural and urban areas. They began forming “fraternities” of brothers in other cities that sought to be “signs of the presence of Christ among men, and bearers of joy”. Since 1951, the brothers have lived, for longer or shorter periods, in small fraternities among the poor in India (chiefly Calcutta), Bangladesh, the PhilippinesAlgeriaBrazilKenyaSenegal, and the USA (Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, New York City).

Engagement with youth culture

In the 1960s young people began to visit the Taizé community. The first international young adults meeting was organized in Taizé in 1966 with 1400 participants from 30 countries. The village church of Taizé, which had been used for the community’s prayers, became too small to accommodate the pilgrims. A new church, the Church of Reconciliation, was built in the early 1960s with the help of volunteers, and expanded several times in the subsequent decades, first with tents, and then with simple wooden annexes.

In 1970, in response to student protests taking place all over Europe and the world, as well as the Second Vatican Council, Brother Roger announced a “Council of Youth”  whose main meeting took place in 1974.

At the end of the 1970s, the meetings and surrounding activities began to be referred to as a “Pilgrimage of Trust on Earth”. The community decided to focus on youth.

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