Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Quiet Time is the Right Time at Some Churches

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Hundreds of candles shone in the sanctuary of First Christian Church in Boulder, Colo. The candles, along with a soft light in the chan cel, provided the only illumination for the 22 people gathered there. The group had assembled for the church's second evening of Taize (pronounced TAZA), a unique style of worship that focuses on slowing down and removing the stress from one's daily routine.

The worship tradition, originally created by Brother Roger in Taize, France, in 1940 as a means of reconciliation among divided Christians, has since evolved and been adopted by churches worldwide. It involves a quiet service of meditation, reflection, readings and music that is open to all faiths.

"It's a respite for me from a busy day and time to reflect on the blessings of life," says 70-year-old Jean Crowder of Boulder, who attended the service with her husband Ray.

They, like the others, are seeking a way to quiet the soul.

"The world is so busy and we get so into our schedules and the idea that we have to be productive all the time that we forget that spiritually we have to produce too," says the Rev. Terry Zimmerman, pastor of First Christian Church.

Worshippers are given a program as they enter the sanctuary that lists each part of the service. When all are gathered and quiet, the service begins. Organ music is introduced and a cantor begins singing the first refrain, with everyone encouraged to join in. Other instruments eventually come into play; on this particular evening it's a flute and clarinet. The music is an integral part of the worship, and each refrain is repeated numerous times, much like a chant.

The church's director of music, Vincent Mirandi, describes these refrains as musical meditations.

"There's traditional church music and there's contemporary church music, which tends to be loud," explains Mirandi. "But Taize music is at the other end of the spectrum; it is quiet and meditative compared to the other two."

Interspersed between the musical refrains are readings from Scripture, along with periods of silence. Zimmerman does the readings sitting in the shadows at the back of the sanctuary.

"I try to be unobtrusive," says Zimmerman. "Just the voice is there."

The spans of silence are contemplative parts of the service for people to reflect and join in prayer. After the last musical refrain, when participants have completed their personal prayer and meditation, they are invited to partake of communion by intinction in which the bread is dipped into the wine. At the Taize service communicants go to the altar and dip the bread themselves. Though not included in normal Taize services, Zimmerman offers communion because it's part of First Christian's tradition.

All told, the service lasts roughly 45 minutes.

It is an individual experience, but one that is shared with all who are assembled. Ideally, the service finds its true meaning in the active participation of the entire congregation.

"It's contemplative, yet you're in community," says Zimmerman. "The energy that is radiated by one person in prayer or singing can combine with that of a person they are close to."

Many who were there didn't know quite what to expect of their first Taize service, including 63-year-old Rosemary Campbell of Boulder.

"The reason I'm here is because I heard it was quiet and peaceful, that's all I know," she says.

Did it meet her expectations?

"I thought it was wonderful!"

Many who attended were older, but Zimmerman is trying to recruit all ages for an upcoming Taize service on Dec. 7.

"We're doing it on a Thursday night because we're hoping that we can get some students interested," he says.

The church will continue to conduct the services if enough people express an interest in them. Zimmerman is very moved by the service and hopes that other people will take advantage of the opportunity to attend.

"We're not giving up our more traditional services," says Zimmerman. "This is just another option."

2000 Scripps Howard News Service.

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