Monday, June 8, 2009


Written by Chamie

One bus, five trains, and approximately 15 hours later, we arrived back in Cambridge, England after our week in Taize, France. Our trip back was fairly uneventful and we had no interesting conversations on the trains - but lots of games of Uno. However, on the way to Taize, we met some wonderful people on the train. For now we will just tell you about Regina. She was warm and smiling. We chatted and laughed in broken French and English. Then she pulled out some bread from her backpack and broke it and gave us pieces along with the most wonderful pieces of cheese we have ever tasted. Though we were on the train to Taize and not the road to Emmaus, we still felt like the disciples who met Jesus and recognized him in the breaking of the bread. Jesus was there - with the added bonus of Burgundy cheese. It was one of the holiest communions in which we have ever partaken. As we got off the train and said "au revoiur," Regina gave us a block of cheese, noting that France can't export it to the United States. Tim said, "I will talk to President Obama about that."

We arrived at Taize to discover that we would be spending the week in the family village with 74 families from Germany (it happened to be a school holiday last week), 2 families from Holland, and us - the only family from the United States and the only native English-speaking family. It was an incredible experience. The "common language" of Taize is English, so our "opening moments" were in English. However, the Bible study lectures were not (but we had two German women who shared in translating for us). On the first day, Brother Wolfgang made note that we Dutch and Americans were the minorities and he said, "Here in Taize, we take special care and consideration of minorities. We would like you to extend such love to them." He asked for a group of families who would be willing to be in our small group and speak English during Bible study discussions and family group gatherings. Within seconds, we were surrounded by the grace of seven wonderful families who became friends. The whole experience made me ponder how I, we, the church, and our country treat the minority at home. Is it with grace and hospitality? Or is it with judgement and exclusion?

The language difference was greater for our children as most of the European children had not yet had an opportunity to learn English. Every morning, the children broke off in age-level groups for Bible study and activities. When we asked Aidan who his closest friend was, he mentioned a boy whose mother was German and father was Venezulan. "We both knew some Spanish," Aidan said. Many thanks to Senora Scott and Ascension Lutheran School (they begin Spanish in Grade 1)!!!!! We discovered, though, that the language difference wasn't really an issue. One of the parents in our group so rightfully said, "Play is the universal language." The children played and played and laughed and smiled with their new friends.

On our last day together, our small group of parents and children took water and gave thanks and marked one another with the sign of the cross and sent each other forth with words of blessing. There were many tears.

That evening, we gathered for our final time of prayer in the church and I realized I felt no tears or deep connection to the worshipping body or the brothers who live in Taize. Don't get me wrong, it was a very good week of prayer, song, and worship. However, I have a new appreciation for "incarnation" - for God becoming human flesh. In short, the only greeting you get at the door of the church is someone holding a sign that says, "silence." No one greets you when you leave. Not once did a brother speak a word of welcome or a gracious word of sending. In fact, the brothers don't ever get up to lead anything up front... it's always just candles. The brothers sit in their own area in the middle and begin the songs or read scripture from their seats. One could have a long conversation on the pros and cons of this - and Tim and I did have a rather lengthy theological discussion because that's what we seem to like to do... it's what we do for fun, you know. But in summary, I realized how much I liked welcoming people to church when I served as a full-time local pastor. It wasn't some script I said, but I really, really, really wanted people to feel welcome and at home. And I loved shaking hands as people went on their way because it is so good to connect with people, even if for a brief moment. At the center of our faith is RELATIONSHIP... it's what the Trinity is all about... it's the reason Jesus came... it's the reason our small group was so meaningful... and it's why the train ride to Taize was holy.

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