If you have never heard of Taizé Worship, it is a fascinating form of community worship, and for me personally, it is a style that works great in the home for family worship. I have been singing my 2 favorite Taizé worship songs to my kids at bed time since they were infants, and now my oldest son Will, at almost 7 years old, knows the words by heart and sings along with me. A few nights ago he told me he kept singing the songs to himself for awhile after I left the room, till he fell asleep. This confirmed to me that these songs have become meaningful to him both because he has heard them from his father all these years, but also because even at his young age he already loves to lift up sincere praise to God.
Here are the 2 songs I sing often to/with my kids at bedtime. I just repeat the choruses, acapella style, a few times, and these prayer songs are quite peaceful and almost meditative:
You may notice that the English titles also have foreign song titles next to them as well. “El Senyor” is Catalan, while “Laudate Omnes Gentes” is Latin. This the origins of these songs, and the fact that you can find them in various languages, reflect the nature and meaning of Taizé.
So what exactly is Taizé?
Click here to read a series of posts about the history of Taizé straight from the Taizé website. Here is a brief synopsis from the Taizé Community Wikipedia Page:
The Taizé Community is an ecumenicalmonasticorder in Taizé, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France. It is composed of more than one hundred brothers, from Catholic and Protestant traditions, who originate from about thirty countries across the world. It was founded in 1940 by Brother Roger Schütz, a Reformed Protestant. Guidelines for the community’s life are contained in The Rule of Taizé written by Brother Roger and first published in French in 1954.
The community has become one of the world’s most important sites of Christian pilgrimage. Over 100,000 young people from around the world make pilgrimages to Taizé each year for prayer, Bible study, sharing, and communal work. Through the community’s ecumenical outlook, they are encouraged to live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation.
Here is a description of Taizé music from the same Wikipedia article.
The community, though Western European in origin, has sought to include people and traditions worldwide. They have sought to demonstrate this in the music and prayers where songs are sung in many languages, and have included chants and icons from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. The music emphasizes simple phrases, usually lines from Psalms or other pieces of Scripture, repeated and sometimes also sung in canon. Ecumenical services based on this model and music are held in many churches throughout the world.
Click here to view a photo gallery if you would like a visual of the Taizé community, and here is a video titled “Life at Taizé” to learn more about the annual gatherings.
My Introduction to Taizé Worship Music
I was first introduced to Taizé Worship in college by one of my theology professors. Dr. Lee Camp was my teacher for a couple different undergraduate courses at Lipscomb University, along with Christian Ethics in graduate school. Lee C. Camp is a recognizable name in certain circles, as he is both a published author (see his books… Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World and Who Is My Enemy?: Questions American Christians Must Face about Islam–and Themselves) and the creator and host of the Tokens Radio Show, which is one of the more awesome things going on in Nashville these days. It is an old-timey, live radio show that is hosted at various locations such as the famous Ryman Auditorium.
TOKENS is part great music, part university lecture, part cultural analysis, and part good conversation, featuring Nashville’s finest musicians and songwriters, provocative interviews with best-selling authors, all mixed up with enough humor and satire to keep things ever lively.
As you can see from his book titles and the Tokens Radio Show, Dr. Lee C. Camp is a man who thinks outside the box, presents his students with new ideas (or ideas that were previously foreign to them), and especially challenges his students to see beyond their own worldview. I still remember the day he introduced my class to Taizé worship music because he played these tracks for us, encouraging us to sing along as a group, and he told us (students at Lipscomb University, which is affiliated with the Churches of Christ and only uses acapella worship in campus worship services) to “pretend like the musical instruments are not there since this is a Church of Christ school.” I instantly loved these songs, which have been stuck in my head ever since that day over a decade ago.
Taizé Music in My Life Today
Today I love the music because of the connection that it has helped develop with my kids, especially my oldest son. The verses are so short and repetitive that the songs are very easy for kids to learn, and the tunes are so peaceful that they make for the perfect bedtime songs of praise. I especially like that these songs are prayers that help me teach my children that there are lots of different ways to pray to God. When my kids get older, I will teach them the ecumenical origins of these songs so they too can understand that while we live in a broken world where even God’s church is broken into thousands of denominations with thousands of variations in doctrine, ultimately all of us who profess Jesus as Lord are worshiping the same God and can only be saved by the same Christ.