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Nondenominational Taizé service focuses on silent meditation, simple music

Tradition began in France, offered by St. Elizabeth's six times annually

POSTED: March 4, 2011 7:15 p.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Robbie Niles lights candles before the Taizé service at St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church in Lumpkin County last month.

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In silent prayer, with sparse singing and liturgy, members of St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church engage in a Taizé-style service six times a year.

In the St. Elizabeth's newsletter, the Taizé service is characterized by simple chants sung repeatedly, rich silence, scriptural readings, meditation and prayers. The altar is adorned with candles, live plants and a cross.

"The Taizé service has a special spiritual atmosphere," Nancy McClary said. "The combination of music, verse and silent meditation with a beautiful altar, filled with candles for focus, and surrounded by a group of spiritual people, produces a deeply spiritual experience that touches the heart and soul. I plan to continue to attend as often as I can."

The most recent service was on Feb. 13 with the Rev. Albert Daviou, pastor at St. Elizabeth's, officiating.

Daviou has been offering the Taizé services for about three years. The service is nondenominational and open to everyone.

"I decided (to have the services) for a couple of reasons: for the spiritual experience that is absent for use these days and the amount of silence," he said. "All surrounded by simple songs and simple lyrics.

"When the church did away with morning prayer, which was one of the traditions of the church ... that had elements of silence. People miss that, and this is a more enhanced way to have this (Taizé) experience."

Instrumental accompaniment in February was played by Daviou, guitarist Eric Daly, keyboardist Fran Dimick, flutist Melissa Lach, fiddler Margo Booth and vocalists Jorgene West and Paul Dimick.

Daly describes Taizé as "harmonious, nourishing, symmetrical, ordered, peaceful, spiritual, nurturing."

Daviou said he recently read some comments on Facebook about the services that were exciting.

"One member said ‘I attended my favorite service that inspires you and the serenity envelopes you.'" he said.

Another Facebook response from attendee Suzanne Ryerson said "... attended the Taizé service at church tonight, my favorite service, the inspirational serenity envelops you and touches you like no other. It's my peace.

There's a quiet serenity, the mood feels like you are embraced by love."

The Taizé community's official website, www.taize.fr, said the practice began in 1940 when Roger Schutz-Marsauche left his home country of Switzerland to live in France. He settled in the small village of Taizé.

Over the years, other men came to join Schutz-Marsauche on his meditative spiritual journey. On Easter 1949, seven of them committed to a life of celibacy and simplicity together.

Just a little bit of that spiritual simplicity is why Lloyd Cupp attends the services.

"The Taizé services have been peaceful, serene and meditative to me," he said. "The regular church services offer the sacraments, but they are also busy."

The next scheduled Taizé service that local worshippers can attend is April 3. The "readings, prayers will be Lenten," Daviou said.



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