Two Manteca churches are coming together tonight in the spirit of ecumenism through a service called Taize – St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church and the Manteca Presbyterian Church.
St. Anthony is hosting this “sung and silent participatory service designed to achieve a contemplative state through music, song and silence.” Worship starts at 7 p.m. The church is located at the corner of Fremont Avenue and East North Street.
This is the second year the two churches are doing this cooperative spiritual offering to the community as a way to enhance the prayerful Lenten experience leading up to Easter. Manteca Presbyterian, located at the corner of North Main and East North streets, hosted the first Taize service last year.
This ecumenical effort was the brainchild of Presbyterian Pastor Karl Hauser and Father Patrick Walker, pastor of St. Anthony’s, who got to know each other during one of the meetings of the Manteca Ministerial Association of which they both are members. Father Walker had mentioned Taize to Pastor Hauser who immediately became enthused with the idea. As it turned out, Hauser was indeed familiar with Taize worship – whose beginnings go back to a small Taize religious community in France, and which is now worldwide – and had, in fact, 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. His research informed him that Taize is “designed to be an ecumenical worship service” which appealed to the many students who were invited to take part in it 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.”
It also helps that the two churches happen to be located within walking distance to each other, he pointed out.
Hauser said he was delighted when Father Walker brought up the idea of doing Taize together, and, “of course, I jumped on board.”
The joint ecumenical service is also right up Walker’s ministerial alley and something that is close to his heart, having served as ecumenical officer for the Catholic Diocese of Stockton for seven years.
Holding the Taize at this time of the year provides the faithful an “early Lenten prayer experience,” he said, by the very nature of this worship service which has been described by many like parishioner Barbara Pinto Choate as “very moving.”
“For me, doing it during the 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,” Pastor Hauser said.
The deeply moving and meditative character of Taize is in its overt and perceived simplicity – simple, short prayerful chants sung repeatedly again and again accompanied by equally simple instrumentals; votive candles with the delicate flames fluttering in a stark setting with subdued darkness as backdrop; and shared heartfelt prayers for various intentions. In some prayer settings, a plain and large wooden cross serves as the focal point with votive candles outlining the lines of the cross and arranged around it.
Hauser and Walker both said they would like to have another church in the community become part of this annual ecumenical worship service. Each church would take turns hosting it every year.
Tonight’s Taize is open to anyone regardless of their church affiliation.