St. Paul’s United Methodist Church is hosting this year’s Lenten Taize on Wednesdy, March 29, starting at 7 p.m.
The public is invited to the inter-faith prayer service started in 2014 by Manteca Presbyterian Pastor Karl Hauser and former St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church Pastor Patrick Walker. St. Paul’s became a part of this ecumenical effort in 2015, followed by Northgate Community Church in 2016. The service is held twice each year, with the other taking place during Advent.
What is unique about Taize? Emelie Diaz, St. Anthony’s music director who spent four days in 2015 at the original Taize community in the tiny village of Burgundy in France, explains.
“There are two distinguishing marks of Taize-like prayer service: repetition and silence. We are invited to immerse ourselves in the simple but profound melodies and let ourselves be carried by this sung prayer. Maintaining silence holds oneself in the present moment and letting Christ, through the Holy Spirit, pray in us.”
It is this prayerful ecumenical atmosphere which has drawn millions of people to the small community in the French region of Burgundy since Brother Roger started it in 1940. The life of the community is centered on prayer. People seeking solace and peace from the horrifying years of World War II poured into this tiny pocket of silence and prayerfulness in Europe. The flow of humanity continued even after the war years, with visitors coming from all over the world.
“In addition to a life of prayer, this community is committed to living a parable of reconciliation within the Christian church and the human family,” Diaz said.
Today, “prayer service in the spirit of Taize are held in many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and South America. It is our hope that we can spread the spirit of unity in prayer and come together as one in Christ,” added Diaz whose group of choir members at St. Anthony leads the Taize music at every prayer service.
It’s the simple “five-line prayer sung six or seven times” that makes Taize “a nice quiet place to focus” on one’s prayer intentions, said Stephen Parsons of St. Paul’s United.
He personally experienced it “about four years ago when God called me to do something and I was fighting it,” he said.
That was the time St. Paul’s was holding its own Taize service, when the Rev. Judith Brown was the pastor.
“It moved me; the Lord brought me to my knees, to tears. It’s hard to just cry but the Lord definitely had me in His attention that night,” recalled Parsons who was in charge of St. Paul’s Food Pantry for years until he took over the same position with the Manteca Mobile Showers project for the homeless.
Why a Taize in Lent? Pastor Hauser said in an earlier interview, “For me, doing it during Lent season is really important because it gives us a chance to be introspective, examine our hearts, and to really look at how, even though we live in a broken world, the promise of life comes with Easter morning, a promise that is important to all of us.”
Hauser was very open to starting regular Taize services in Manteca when he got together with Father Walker. That’s because he was already familiar with the ecumenical service, having experienced it while attending Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.
“I was part of a Presbyterian group there that participated in this type of worship,” he explained.
After doing some research, he learned that Taize is “designed to be an ecumenical worship service,” which was the appeal that drew many of the students who were invited and actually attended.
“I just really appreciated the singing, the chanting of the music, the quiet approach to it, which is very different from Presbyterian services,” Hauser added. “I do have a heart for ecumenical ministry and wanting to share the Christian message that Christians have more similarities than differences. The fact that we are able to worship together shows the similarities of our faith which is very important to me.”
Hauser said he was delighted when Father Walker, a former ecumenical officer for the Catholic Diocese of Stockton, brought up the idea of doing Taize together and, “of course, I jumped on board,” Hauser said.
Other churches in Manteca are welcome to become part of the biannual Taize service and being a host to one of the services.
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church is located at the corner of East North Street and Powers Avenue in Manteca.