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Workshops on Taizé-style worship


Taizé-style worship in the Denver Area



Two Sample Chapters
from Reinventing Sunday:
Breakthrough Ideas for Transforming Worship

by Brad Berglund
© 2001, Judson Press


Chapter 6: Reading

"The reading [of scripture] itself ought to be an act of worship."
Andrew W. Blackwood

There are a variety of creative ways to read scripture in the context of worship. The most important principles to keep in mind are to present scripture clearly, articulately and appropriately.

Creativity should never obscure clarity. For example, if a puppet reads the scripture on Children's Sunday, but the microphone isn't well-placed or the sound technician doesn't have the cue, the congregation will experience creativity but will not hear a word. Creativity must be rehearsed carefully and then delivered in a competent way that opens hearts rather than closing minds.

Not everyone cooks well; this doesn't make them inadequate people, it only means they have not yet acquired a particular skill. In the same way, not everyone reads well. Public reading and speaking is an art form to be taken seriously. When a passage of Scripture is read by someone who has rehearsed the reading and somehow gotten "behind" and "inside" the meaning of the words, those listening will be moved to deeper awareness or to greater service. Scripture poorly delivered carries with it the risk of reducing the encounter with the living God to another random blip on the screen of our weekly experience or, even worse, to a source of irritation.

Appropriateness in worship flows directly from how well the church leaders know and understand each individual church member - not only their dislikes and prejudices, but more importantly, their openness and appreciation of creativity. You may be surprised, as I have been, at many people's high degree of openness and receptivity to innovative Scripture reading. Knowing what will lead your congregation to new depths and what will make them afraid to come to worship is a fine line that can only be walked by one who knows the people who regularly attend the church.

Suggestions to Improve Scripture Reading
1. Read more Scripture in worship, not less.

For the gathered people of God, especially in the Protestant tradition, Scripture reading is the basis of our encounter with God. The lectionary usually provides four texts for worship each week: an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a Gospel, and an Epistle. Each of these types of Scripture has a different intent, style, and impact. If you do not use the lectionary, find a way to read a selection from all of these kinds of Scripture each week in worship.

2. Allow silence after a Scripture is read. A profound gift to be given in worship is silence. In a world of constant noise and sensory bombardment, allowing people to rest in the words they have just heard restores and transforms the congregation. However, because our world is so noisy, many people don't know how to use silence and only feel uncomfortable with it.

Following the reading of the Gospel, invite the congregation to one minute of silent reflection. Without filling the silence with words, guide them by suggesting they replay the message of the selection, repeat a significant phrase from the Scripture, or wait in quiet for an inspiration or thought to rise up within them. ...

3. Develop a lay readers school. Throughout church history, Scripture reading in worship has belonged to lay readers. Professional clergy have too often taken this gift away from the laity. Many people in your congregation are excellent oral interpreters. If Scripture readings are often chosen ahead of time, these readers could meet once a month with a teacher and practice the fine art of reading in public, giving attention to voice projection, emphasis, changes in loudness and timbre, etc. ...

Vary men and women's voices throughout the service, and vary ages, races, and accents as well. Doing so will give people an expansive view of God. If the biblical passage is a story with characters, different voices can be used for each character in a semi-dramatic or "readers' theater" performance.

4. Arrange a visit from a prophet. Another dramatic way for a congregation to experience an encounter with prophetic words in Scripture is hearing from that prophet "in person." Create the prophet's costume for one of your dramatic readers, affix the prophetic Scripture passage into a scroll, and maybe even give the reader a dramatic entrance such as from the back of the church. Allow the congregation to get a feel for "a voice crying in the wilderness." For example, if your congregation celebrates the Advent season, the church could experience a visit from the prophet Isaiah on the first Sunday of Advent.

5. Read responsively or antiphonally. Responsive readings are a valuable way to involve the entire congregation in the experience of reading Scripture. In this setting, an individual reader and the group take turns reading a Scripture text verse by verse. Different sections of the congregation - for example the right and left sides or choir or congregation - can also read verses back and forth to each other.

Antiphonal readings are slightly different; one of the groups or an individual repeats a single phrase or sentence (called the "antiphon") between verses of the Scripture passage. ... For example, the congregation may read a Psalm and an individual reader would say, "The steadfast Love of the Lord never ceases" between each verse. .  .  .

6. Sing one of the readings as an anthem. As the choir's contribution to worship that day, ask them to sing the Scripture reading, allowing a moment of silence to follow. . . .

7. Sign the Scripture reading even if you have no hearing-impaired members. Of course, if you have hearing-impaired members, you're doing this already. For those who do not understand sign language, the interpretive movement of the signs will reinforce what they are hearing through a different sensory avenue.

8. Create a short antiphon and teach the sign language for it to the congregation. For example, if the prayer, "The Lord Is My Strength and Song" fits into the Scripture reading as an antiphonal affirmation, have the congregation sign those words each time it is said or sang. The last time the antiphon is said, use only hand signs with no spoken words. Your congregation can take that gift home with them and sign that prayer to each other when words seem inadequate.

9. Re-create an important event on a special Sunday of the church year. This suggestion works extremely well on Pentecost Sunday. Find people who read well in another language and ask them to provide the text for Acts 2 in their language. ... When this reading is carefully rehearsed and artistically directed, it has a profound effect. ...

10. If you have the technology, use it. If you have the capability to effectively use video technology in your sanctuary, there are many excellent resources available to you. ... videos would add a sense of drama and authenticity to the reading of the Word in worship.

11. Stand or kneel for the lesson. Invite your congregation to stand or kneel for the reading of the Scripture lesson. By symbolizing respect and giving special attention through the posturing of your body, you will find that the reading of the Scripture takes on new emphasis and importance as a high point in worship.

Excerpted by permission from Reinventing Sunday: Breakthrough Ideas for Transforming Worship, copyright 2001 by Brad Berglund. Published by Judson Press, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, www.judsonpress.com, 1-800-4-JUDSON.

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Appendix D: Worship and Prayer in the Style of the Taizé Community
One passes through Taizé
as one passes close to a spring of water.

Pope John Paul II

My pilgrimage to the Taizé Community began in an unusual place. Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey is known for its excellent choral program, brilliant faculty and the presence of world-class organists. Since I was studying music, I did not expect to experience a prayer form that would captivate my heart for the next eighteen years. Then one morning, our class was introduced to the music and prayer of Taizé.

The prayer began with singing a simple eight-bar phrase and these words — Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. As I sang, I focused first on the words, identifying with the one who spoke them to Jesus — the thief on the cross. However, with each repetition I found myself relaxing deeper into the presence of Christ, the one to whom I sang.

Occasionally, an oboe or cello would add an obligato to the singing. Singers began adding choral parts until all four parts wrapped around my soul as a cloak. As I sang in that community of musicians, I prayed in a way I’d never prayed before. Fourteen years later, I finally walked into the crowded sanctuary of the Church of the Reconciliation on a hill top in Burgundy, France and sang that prayer with people from other nations around the world.

The Community

Taizé is a village in the Burgundy region of France. Roger Schütz, son of a Swiss Protestant minister, was only 25 years old when he came to Taizé from Switzerland in 1940. In the war-torn years that followed, he began sheltering Jewish refugees and praying in the village church. Others joined him and soon a small community of brothers was formed.

Believing there would always be war in Europe until Christians stopped killing Christians, Roger and his followers committed themselves to a ministry of reconciliation, a challenging and difficult task in postwar France and Germany. Slowly, one by one, brothers began making life-long commitments to communal life. Donning white robes, adopting a Benedictine style of daily life and receiving Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant brothers from many countries, Taizé has become a monastic model of ecumenism. Roger refers to this community as a "pilgrimage of trust on earth."

Over the years that followed, young people from all over Europe made their way to Taizé to open themselves to this communion which gives meaning to their lives. Today, from May to October, as many as six thousand young people a week come to Taizé for the weekly meetings with the brothers. Focusing on three periods of communal prayer each day, participants delve into the meaning of their own spiritual journey, explore their faith commitments and worship with people from all over the world.

The Music and Prayer

Contemplation has been described as a "long loving gaze at what is real." Worship at Taizé is contemplative in its style in that it gives the worshiper time to focus on God’s presence within and without. Much of the praying is in silence. Taizé music is composed in an ostinato pattern a short, simple phrase repeated many times. Often a scripture text and sometimes a quotation attributed to a devote person, each phrase expresses an essential reality, quickly understood by the intellect, which is then integrated slowly into one’s attitudes and actions.

Instrumentalists pray through their playing by adding an obligato above the communal singing. Descants — often a psalm — are also sung above the chant. One song may take as long as five minutes. In this atmosphere of simplicity and focused attention, one is free to "rest" in the presence of God.

For years, many of the songs written for the Taizé community were written by one of the brothers, Jacques Berthier. Following his death, French Jesuit priest Joseph Gelineau has composed new chants for the community.

Taize CDs cassettes and printed music from Taizé are available for purchase on line at www.illuminatedjourneys.com or by calling 1.877.489.8500. Worship workshops in the style of Taizé are available for your church or organization. Call the author for more information.

Guidelines for creating worship in the Taizé style.

1. Create a peaceful, inviting focal point for worship. Use a cross, candles, plants and icons.

2. Place musicians off to the side in a circle. There is no visible leadership in this style of worship. If the service is held in a large room, the musicians should be miked so all vocal parts can be heard. This provides support for the participants. Musicians should rehearse before the service.

3. Participants should be invited to enter in silence. This gives everyone permission not to talk to each other. Use signs at the entrances of the church to accomplish this goal.

4. To support participants in their silence, write suggestions for silent prayer on a sheet of paper to be picked up as people come in.

5. Prayers and scriptures are read from the side of the room or from the back. Keep the focus away from the person reading so it will stay on the text that is read.

6. In Taizé-style worship, the sermon is replaced by silent meditation.








Taizé-style prayer

Nothing is more conducive to a communion with the living God than a meditative common prayer with, as its high point, singing that never ends and that continues in the silence of one’s heart when one is alone again. When the mystery of God becomes tangible through the simple beauty of symbols, when it is not smothered by too many words, then a common prayer, far from exuding monotony and boredom, awakens us to heaven’s joy on earth.

Brother Roger, Songs and Prayers from Taizé, p. 5





From the depths of the human condition a secret aspiration rises up. Caught up in the anonymous ryhthms of schedules and timetables, men and women of today are implicitly thirsting for the one essential reality: an inner life, signs of the invisible.

Brother Roger, Songs and Prayers from Taizé, p. 5















Prayer takes us by surprise; even if all kinds of contradictions and doubts are still there, a longing comes to light, and the silence reveals a peace close at hand...It sets the heart free and releases a surge of new life.

From Taizé: Trust on Earth, p.1




A sample Taizé-style worship service


Song     Veni Sancte Spiritus     # 41 - Songs and Prayers from Taizé

Song      Sing Praise and Bless the Lord      #35 - Songs and Prayers from Taizé

Scripture     Ps. 139: 1-6, 13-18

(As the psalm is read, light the Christ candle 
as a symbol of Christ’s presence)

Song      Lord Jesus Christ      #15 - Taizé: Songs for Prayer

Silence (10 minutes)

Scripture      Matthew 18.21-35

Song      God Can Only Give Faithful Love #57      - Taizé: Songs for Prayer

Scripture      Romans 14.1-12

Song      Nada te Turbe      #29 - Songs and Prayers from Taizé

Prayer of Petition and Thanksgiving

Kyrie (Lord have mercy)      #4 - Songs and Prayers from Taizé

Song      Jesus, Remember Me      #11 - Taizé: Songs for Prayer

Silence (5 minutes)

The Lord’s Prayer

Songs      In God Alone      #19 - Songs and Prayers from Taizé

                In The Lord      #47 - Songs and Prayers from Taizé

(During the last song, someone carries the lighted Christ candle down the aisle and out the back door as a sign of Christ leading us back into the world to love and serve.)

Excerpted by permission from Reinventing Sunday: Breakthrough Ideas for Transforming Worship, copyright 2001 by Brad Berglund. Published by Judson Press, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, www.judsonpress.com, 1-800-4-JUDSON.


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Reinventing Sunday

8273 E. Davies Avenue   •   Centennial, Colorado 80112

Toll free: 877.489.8500   •   Phone: 720.489.8073

www.reinventingsunday.com   •   brad@reinventingsunday.com