WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Guitars strum and voices unite as Christians worship together in Taizé prayer at Assumption Church.
It is Sunday evening and about 60 people from various Christian churches have gathered at Assumption Church, 9040-95 Ave., to sing the meditative prayers and chants known as Taizé prayer.
A 12-member choir leads the congregation through the hour-long service, which is interspersed with psalms, a Gospel reading in various languages, silence and intercessory prayer.
"O Lord, hear my prayer," the choir sang as the congregation implored for peace in Syria and for unity among Christian churches, among other intercessions.
The Taizé prayer, a non-denominational gathering modelled after an ecumenical movement started in 1940 by Roger Schutze in Taizé, France, was introduced to Edmontonians more than four decades ago.
For the past two years it has been hosted monthly by the churches located on 95th Avenue, including Strathearn United, St. Luke's Anglican, Holyrood Mennonite and Assumption Catholic Parish.
According to Maria Kruszewski, who coordinates the services, the number of participants fluctuates from as low as 25 to as high as 80 in the last two years.
"(The Taizé prayer service) is about putting ourselves in the presence of God and listening to his or her voice; just joining our voices in common worship," Kruszewski said.
"I think it's really beautiful that it is people from the different Christian denominations because we all have Jesus in common and even if there are differences in the way we believe, we can worship together."
There is no presiding pastor or sermon at this service. It begins with a few chants and is followed by a psalm sung by one person and responded to by the congregation. Then there is a Gospel reading followed by five minutes of silent meditation, more music and intercessory prayer. There are a few more chants at the end, after which participants gather for fellowship.
WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Coordinator Maria Kruszewski finds peace and joy in the Taizé prayer service.
"I love Taizé prayer; I find it just a beautiful way to pray," said Kruszewski, who has been participating for 22 years. "Music has always been very important in worship to me, so when I first heard Taizé music I knew I wanted to be involved with it."
The member of Assumption Parish said she feels "peaceful and joyful" after each service. "It just opens up a space in me where I can relax in God's presence; just let God fill me up. Life is so busy but it's an oasis here."
Kruszewski plays the guitar and sings at each service together with her daughters Christina, 19, and Suzanna, 17, who also plays the flute. Her youngest daughter Julia, 13, attends occasionally and once played the ukulele at the service. "We are a musical family; we like to make music."
Kruszewski said there is a fair bit of interest in the Taizé prayer. "The word is getting around slowly; people who come and experience it quite often come back (especially) if meditation and music is their thing."
Pastors of the churches involved make sure worship space is available for the service and some have attended practically all the services in the past two years. "(As a result of the Taizé prayer) people in the neighbourhood are less afraid to walk into each other's churches and to worship together."
Denise Hugman, a United Church member, has attended Taizé services for about 10 years. She is a choir regular where she sings and plays the flute. She likes the simplicity of the service which allows people to connect with God within themselves. "It allows to me to stop, to contemplate and to hear God and each other and to live in community."
Hugman says she leaves refreshed and rejuvenated after each service. "Maybe there would be less unrest in the world if people would bring themselves together in services like the Taizé prayer, which is shared universally."
Vinh Le, human resources coordinator with L'Arche, has been attending Taizé services for about three years and sings in the choir.
"I love the singing; I love the music; it's so prayerful for me," he said. "(This service) helps me to connect with God. I have two (small) children and I often don't get the opportunity to sit quietly. So I love being able to join a bigger group and sing and pray together."
Le said the service helps the cause of ecumenism because it's open to Christians of all denominations. "Praising God is one way of doing things that we all share in common, without worrying about all these theological differences."
The next Taizé prayer will take place Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. at the Royal Alexandra Hospital's main atrium. On Nov. 6 there will be a Peace Prayer at the Strathearn United Church, 8510-95 Ave., then Advent Prayer at Holyrood Mennonite Church, 9505-79 Street on Dec. 8.