Article by Kara Hawkes
Reprinted from “Topic”, Diocese of New Westminster
Our pilgrimage to Taizé was a truly amazing experience. On July 19 the 2007, the 16 Taizé pilgrims from the Diocese of New Westminster all met at the airport to begin their journey. Once on the plane everyone settled in for a long flight.
Next evening the group arrived in Paris. After resting in the hotel for a while and eating dinner the group headed off to Sacré Coeur. We took some photos, and then explored the area. Afterwards, the group took a quick walk through the Red-Light district, stopping to take a group photo in front of Moulin Rouge. We then headed back to the hotel and called it a night.
The following day started off at the great cathedral of Notre Dame, followed by Ste. Chapelle and a boat ride along the Seine. We walked along the Champs-Élysées, taking a quick photo of the Arc de Triomphe. After lunch the group went up the Arc to take photos of this beautiful city.
Naturally, since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows had come out that day the group made a trip to an English bookstore so people could pick up a copy. To finish off our day in Paris we went to the Eiffel Tower and watched the spectacular light show-unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to go up.
The next morning the group boarded the bus to Taizé. Upon arrival I found it to be much more amazing than I even expected.
We all waited for a while to find out where we would sleep. Some pilgrims took their last opportunity to read Harry Potter; they were confiscated during our stay!
A member of the welcoming committee outlined the programs for the week. Ten of the twelve pilgrims were age15 or 16, and all went into the same program, “Up to Jerusalem”.
The two 17-year-olds were given a choice of programs. Daniel chose to do two sessions a day of “I am the Bread of Life,” a detailed reading of chapter six of John’s Gospel. I chose to do practical work in the morning-washing dishes- and the “He opened a way” program in the afternoon, which was a reflection on Saint Luke’s Gospel.
Our first Taizé style dinner was fairly simple and involved the challenge of drinking from a bowl and eating everything with a spoon.
That same night the pilgrims also experienced their first true Taizé worship. Since there were 5,000 people there that week, the church was jam-packed with people. All sit on the floor except for those smart enough to purchase a prayer stool. During the service one or two-line songs are sung and repeated over and over again until the sign displaying the song number is turned off. The songs are for the most part in different languages. Even with 5,000 people singing, it almost sounded like one voice.
One of the differences between Taizé worship and an Anglican service is that instead of a sermon there is ten minutes of meditative silence. Taizé services were truly amazing.
From Tuesday onwards there were workshops that people could attend. Dinner was at seven, followed by evening worship.
After evening worship the group headed out to Oyak, the social centre, where people went to let off steam, drink or eat and party before bed. Curfew was 11 pm most nights-despite the curfew, we often weren’t in bed before midnight.
The following Sunday we headed back to Paris and just had enough time to have a lovely dinner. The next morning most of the group headed off to the airport to return home to Canada. A few continued their vacation in France.
I strongly encourage anyone considering it to take the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage to Taizé.