This weekend the Taizé Community will hold a conference in the U.S., and several thousand people — particularly young adults — are expected to meet for prayer and song at DePaul University in Chicago.
Taizé (pronounced tie-zay) has long generated attention for its ability to attract followers from both Catholic and Protestant traditions, but now people are asking how the group is so successful in attracting young Christians who, according to surveys, are leaving the church in droves.
Some mainline Protestant leaders who’ve been exposed to Taizé say the movement could help reverse decades of falling membership and attrition. United Methodist Pastor Mark Ulrickson from Southern California likes the way the monks integrate spirituality with action, and he says this would keep young people rooted to church.
“(Taizé) doesn’t start with, ‘Here’s what you have to believe,’” said Ulrickson. “It starts with, ‘We’re brothers and sisters in this person of Christ and we come together to be in prayer together to discover each other and what gifts we have.’”
Chris Soukup was on the verge of leaving the Episcopal Church as a 19-year-old freshman at South Dakota State University. He had grown tired of years of going to church just because his parents said so. When he was asked to take a job as a counselor at a church camp, he had his reservations, but decided to give it a try.
Soukup was moved by the Taizé-style camp that was led by a visiting brother from France. Three weeks of singing simple phrases over and over, extolling God as the light out of darkness, and quiet time to pray and meditate on passages that exemplify living the life of the gospel captivated Soukup’s soul.
“It’s a really relaxing style of worship that you don’t get with a lot of the denominations ... where they’re focused on more of a sermon style or a praise-and-worship kind of thing,” Soukup said. “The silence is really the biggest thing for me where you just have time to reflect.”