This is Taizi: holiday service features chanting, prayer and silence
It’s a church service without a lot of words — in fact, there’s no real sermon at all.
Instead, there is chanting, prayer and, perhaps most importantly and uniquely, there is silence.
“It’s so meditative, it gives you a sense of nurturing in your spirit and soul,” said Truckee Lutheran/Presbyterian Church Pastor Mark Howard, who is organizing a holiday-timed community service called “taizZ” that will be held Dec. 11 and 16 at Assembly of God Church.
TaizZ is a worship service that has its origins in TaizZ, France, where it was developed by monks in the 1940s as a way to help end the divisions between Christians.
“Taizi is a service of prayer, song, scripture and silence, meant to unite people with the heart of God through common prayer,” Howard said.
Howard is helping to organize the taizi service in Truckee, believed to be the area’s first. He has participated in prior services in San Francisco and Danville.
In taizi, visitors enter a darkened sanctuary lit by candles. Musicians play a simple chant by the dim light and the worshippers begin chanting along as they slip into a kind of “musical meditation.”
The service is made up primarily of chanting, although a scripture reading and prayers are also included.
While taizi isn’t specifically a holiday service, Howard said he felt it was an appropriate time of year to try the reflective services in Truckee.
“The real motive behind doing this is we’re all suffering from tension,” Howard said. “We’ve been living in it since Sept. 11, and the holiday season also brings with it a lot of tension.”
Taizi has its origins in a war-torn world teeming with uncertainty, a time not too different from our own. A young monk named Brother Roger first came to the eastern France village of Taizi in 1940, with a dream of starting a community “on account of Christ and the gospel.”
Brother Roger’s house became a place of welcome for refugees, especially Jews fleeing the Nazi terror, and the religious services there emphasized community and inclusion.
Taizi services are offered today worldwide, with a goal of striving for communion among all in a relaxed setting, said Howard.
“There’s no preaching, no offering — nobody’s going to try and convert you,” he said.
“The feeling at a taizi service is a much more personal one,” said Kirk Gardner, who will act as cantor, leader of the chants, during the service, with his wife Patricia as pianist. “You can be wherever you are and you don’t have to change much.”
“When it was developed by Brother Roger after World War II, reconciliation was on the mind then for all people,” Gardner said. “Here we are now in a time where there’s also turmoil.”
Another part of the service is “The Great Silence,” a five-minute silence where participants can meditate on whatever they choose.
“They often go up to 10 minutes, but we’re brand new,” Howard said. “For many people, 10 minutes of total silence is unbearable and five minutes is probably enough to start with.”
The aim of taizi is to provide spirituality without a strict structure, and visitors will get out of it whatever they choose. The free-form chanting can lead in surprising directions, the organizers say.
“It takes on its own life,” said Gardner.
“It’s definitely a time for people to come to terms with where they are and where their sense of God is,” Howard said.
The nondenominational services are open to people of any religion, or even none at all.
“People who’ve never been in a church before, it’d be fun for them, too,” Howard said. “There’ll be no proselytizing.”
Howard is eager to host Truckee’s taizi services, and hopes for a solid turnout.
“I’m just hoping the community will recognize this as a gift,” Howard said. “Everyone is welcome.”
The services, sponsored by the Truckee Lutheran/Presbyterian Church, will be held at the Assembly of God Church, Highway 267 South, between the Best Western and the airport.
There will be a service on Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. and another service on Sunday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. Child care will be provided.
Howard said he hopes that the taizi services prove popular enough in Truckee to try future ones.
“There’s a possibility of continuing the services once every month or so if the need of the people is there,” Howard said.
For more information on the taizi services, call Pastor Howard at (530) 582-4243 or 582-5390.
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