Saturday, November 6, 2010
thirteenth visit: Nov 3rd 2010 Taizé Prayer Service, All Souls/All Saints Day
Taizé Prayer Service
at East Liberty Presbyterian Church
116 S. Highland Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15206
Taizé is a mid-week hour of prayer and song. Though elements of the service are grounded mainly in Christianity (through my perception at least), the service is open to and honors followers of any belief seeking quiet meditation. The Taizé Community on which this type of service is based, was initiated in 1940 by Brother Roger Schutz. It was his response to WWII—to create a religious community in France, based on international reconciliation and open dialogue regarding differences in beliefs.
I rarely plan my visits more than 5 days in advance. And this visit: just 1 day in advance. Despite this I feel I've been really lucky in catching holidays and special observances that I had not been anticipating... as is the case for my next visit (I thought I had fully missed the Hindu holiday of Diwali) and for this visit as well. Reverend Christiane Dutton responds to my email, mentioning that tonight there will be a candle-light procession through the church honoring All Saints and All Souls Day, done only at this time of the year. Perfect.
It is dark when I arrive. This church takes up an entire block—a small block, yes, but still one whole block. I start navigating hallways, trying to follow a trail of signs, but have to return to the doormen to ask directions to the chapel, where Taizé takes place each week. Ends up I need to walk through the humongous, towering, empty, dark sanctuary (pictured above) all alone, in order to get to the chapel. My footsteps echo the only sound. Poe has followed me from Baltimore, and I enter into the perfect All Souls mood.
In the smaller chapel where Taizé is held, 20 or so worshipers are seated and six 20+ foot tall, narrow vertical banners of a Christo/Jeanne-Claude saffron orange mark the front alter. 20 or so candles provide the only front-alter light. If I were a ghost I'd totally hang out here.
The Taizé Prayer Service begins:
A few musicians seated in pews across the aisle from me play hymns with quiet sensitivity. (violin, flute, viola)
Scripture is read aloud. (in Spanish, Korean, French, German, and finally English)
And the All Saints/All Souls Procession begins:
Each carries a lit candle, in a slow-moving, single-file line, to the baptismal font, then the huge sanctuary. Here a remembrance of communion is held. It is emphasized that this is need not be approached as a sacred communion—but "just a breaking of [homemade rye swirl!] bread together" where non-Christians are welcome to partake.
We spend a minute in the crypt (never to be complete without) before returning to the chapel.
A speaking aloud names of those we know who have passed this year. (Since I began gatherings this is the the 3rd time for this ritual, in 3 services of very different beliefs: 3rd visit, 12th visit, and this one.)
Worshipers requesting specific prayer huddle in groups of 3-4, wrapping arms over shoulders with Reverend Christiane. And so this continues until the line of prayer request-ers diminish and the service ends.