The spirit of Taizé returns to Newcastle

An ecumenical prayer service in the spirit of Taizé will commence at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Tighes Hill this Sunday.

The meditative service, which is conducted by candlelight and includes the singing of repeated prayer chants had previously been held in Mayfield and was popular with faithful from various denominations. However, following the closure of St Columban’s Church in Mayfield due to structural issues, it was discontinued.

With support from the Tighes Hill community, Anna Hill and Jan Grace have instigated the return of the popular ecumenical service. Indeed, it was Anna who originally brought the service to the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle in the 1990s after she and her late husband John, travelled to Taizé and experienced the power of the devotional service first-hand.  

Below Anna, a passionate musician and former teacher in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, shares an overview of the ecumenical prayer service in the spirit of Taizé, which also includes reflections from those who have previously attended local services.

Anna has expressed her gratitude to the Tighes Hill community for the support shown to reintroduce the ecumenical service to the people of Newcastle, which she is hopeful will encourage a new community of people to experience its transformative powers.

Taizé is a small village located in eastern France, near Lyon.  The Taizé community, founded in 1940 by Roger Louis Schutz-Marsauche (known as 'Brother Roger'), is ecumenical and encompasses a strong devotion to peace and justice through prayer and meditation. Over the decades the Taizé movement has remained resolutely ecumenical and continues to bring together people from all denominations and cultures. 

“It is a sign of hope in a divided world…”  Brother Roger

Prayer and silence are at the heart of the Taizé experience. As part of the service, we are encouraged to live out the Christian gospel in a spirit of joy, simplicity and reconciliation.

The cross icon, which is at the centre of the devotional service, is an adaption of the San Damiano cross of St. Francis of Assisi. It is used in ecumenical prayer services conducted in Taizé, France and anywhere where prayer services in the Spirit of Taizé are conducted, including here in Newcastle.

The singing of repeated prayer chants by candlelight are a trademark of the Taizé experience. Taizé music highlights simple phrases, usually lines from the Psalms or other pieces of scripture, repeated or sung in canon. The repetition is designed to help meditation and prayer.

The service is not led by a celebrant, but includes many symbols, ritual, silence, and a lot of stillness.  Prayers from the heart, music, readings, candlelight, and petitions combine to create a meditative, reflective atmosphere and a spiritual connectedness. 

          “One passes through Taizé as one passes close to a spring of water,” Pope John Paul II

So what is it that draws people to this kind of service? Below are reflections from people who have previously attended local ecumenical prayer services in the spirit of Taizé.

“It is a way of worship which is meditative in a way that the usual form is not. It allows you time for your heart and mind to be open to the Lord for an extended time. The music really opened up a new way to pray. Candlelight creates a quietening of the heart.”

“It is the attraction of linking into chants in various languages to remind you that the Christian tradition, which we all share, is not only an ancient one going back 2,000 years which has influenced the course of western civilisation but also, manifests itself in various cultures.”

“It brings a connectedness to others worshipping in the same way throughout the world. Gives opportunity to participate with others in a meaningful, reflective way. It’s non-passive with ritual, symbolism and participation”.

“The music really opened up a new way to pray. I like its simplicity. It’s very spiritual. I find it very peaceful.”

You are invited to join a welcoming community of people coming together to experience ecumenical prayer services in the Spirit of Taizé’.

Venue:            Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church Tighes Hill

Date:               First Sunday each month starting June 5th

Time:               5.00pm – 6pm followed by a shared supper.

Follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Lizzie Watkin Image
Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.