It is not the singing I remember most, but the silence; not so much the speaking I remember as the leaning. Let me explain:
My first trip to Taiz
was in the summer of 2003. There were five thousand people there that week, maybe one thousand of us middle-aged, the rest young adults, aged 17-25. At every entrance to the church, ushers held signs (in multiple languages) requesting silence. Nonetheless, with five thousand people, there were the inevitable sounds of shuffling, and coughing and whispers.
Each service began with twenty or thirty minutes of singing, interspersed with brief scripture readings and spoken prayers. Then came a period of silence - real silence; true silence; utter, complete silence in a church filled with five thousand people, many of them still teenagers!
Kathleen Norris tells of an exercise she used to do with elementary school children. "First, we'll make noise," she told the children, "and then we'll make silence." At Taizé, in our singing together, we had somehow learned to make silence, true silence, amazingly deep silence, in which God's still, small voice, could speak to each person.
It was on this same trip to Taizé that Jan and I met. We shared a meal on Monday of that week, where we talked for hours. I remember very little of what we said, but I remember the night that followed, as I could hardly sleep for excitement. And I remember the evening prayers on Thursday. In the church at Taizé, there are no pews; everyone sits on the floor. By late in the week, some of us older folks had found a section on the side, where steps led down to the main floor. Sitting on the steps, with feet on the step below, made the floor-sitting easier. There we sat, several of our group together. Jan sat in front of me, and sometime during the singing she leaned back, and rested against my shins. We both remember the leaning, a sign of increasing comfort with one another, a sign of growing trust.
Those are just some of the memories that came flooding back last week, as we sang the songs and prayed in the style of Taizé, in the Garden Chapel at AHUMC where we exchanged our vows some 14 months after we met. It is not the singing I remember most, but the silence; not so much the speaking I remember as the leaning.