A week in Taize is always an exciting, inspiring, challenging and tiring experience, and this year has been no different. By this point in the week, though there is sadness about leaving, there is also a sense of anticipation as we look forward to seeing our families and loved ones again and get to sleep in more comfortable beds and enjoy normal foods!
Taize is a place that changes you, and it changes you for a purpose. Whenever people visit special places of wonder on this earth, they are usually left inspired by what they have seen. But in Taize, there is a sense of awe and wonder that spurs you on to think about the way you live and how you might act differently; going back into your everyday world determined to work for unity and peace. Taize helps you to look upwards to God, inwards to yourself, and outwards to others. This powerful dynamic is truly transformational.
In some ways you could describe Taize as like a glimpse of heaven. People from all over the world gathering together, meeting in unity, joy and friendship; meeting to worship God and to explore faith and community more deeply. For the young people that we have brought this week, I believe they have had a taste of this. A taste of community; learning how to love, respect and support others.
This experience of community has always been central to God’s message of love and peace in our world. And for these young people, who are the hope of our world, this experience of community will help them to see that there is another way of living. A way contrary to what we so often see in our news and media. A way of unity instead of division; Hope instead of despair, encouragement instead of blame, and as Jesus promised the opportunity of life in all its fullness. In the words of the writer of Hebrews;
...let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another...
So many young people have told me that this week has been life changing experience for them. Be it through the friendships they’ve made, the discoveries they’ve made about themselves as well as the revelation that God loves them deeply. And all this has come through the experience of community. We were not made to be and live in isolation, and through God’s love experienced in community, it is possible to be the change that we need to see in the world.
As we return home, I pray that these young people will continue to be inspired by Taize, to work for peace and unity in their communities, standing firm in the knowledge that they are deeply loved by God and that they can be the hope for our world.