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Chants and Prayers

Worship services welcome all

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A Taize worship service is Christian and it is simple. In its simplicity lies its power, explains Beth Guss. Guss will be the hostess at her church during the Olympics, when lay leaders from the American Bible Society come to Salt Lake City to conduct Taize worship twice a day.

While Guss's church, the St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center adjacent to the University of Utah campus, is Catholic, the lay leaders who are coming from Illinois represent a variety of faiths and the Taize services will be ecumenical and open to everyone.

During the Olympics, it doesn't matter your denomination, or your country, or even whether or not you know English. If you want to pray for the world and with the world, come to the Newman Center, 170 S. University St., weekdays at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., from Feb. 11 to 23.

There, you will find other worshippers singing short Latin chants. The chants are repeated 10 or 15 times each. There will be a printed program, or you may just listen and join in when you can. There will be scripture readings from Hebrew and Christian texts. There will be long spaces of silence. At the end of the service, if you wish, you may come forward to venerate the cross.

Those who are not of the Eastern traditions may not know what veneration looks like. Guss explains: Veneration means you come forward, you kneel, you place your forehead at the foot of the cross and you humble yourself before God. It is simple, she says.

David Anderson, director of workshops for the American Bible Society, says that contemplative worship, the kind of worship that offers silence, is an old Christian tradition, and one that is being rediscovered in many cultures.

His group decided a Taize style of worship would fit well during the Olympics, "because the Olympics normally offer prayer, daily, and the Taize community is international." Guss points out that the Newman Center will be one of the sites set aside for athletes to meet with their families (who will not be allowed inside the Olympic Village). She hopes to welcome many families from other countries to the Newman Center.

The structure of Taize worship comes from a community of faith in the small town of Taize, in the Burgundy district of France. It was there that a young monk named Brother Roger spent World War II hiding Jews and other refugees. Later, other monks came to join him in his community of kindness and retreat. By the end of the 1950s, Brother Roger was welcoming people from every country and every faith to come and pray with him to heal the world.

Today the community consists of about 100 brothers, both Protestant and Catholic. Each year, thousands of visitors, most of them young people, make a pilgrimage to Taize, to stay for a week or a month, to share in the communal life and worship.

Brother Roger describes their purpose this way, "In our common life, we can only move forward by discovering over and anew the miracle of love and daily forgiveness . . . "

As people visit Taize, they come to love the meditative music. The chants stay with them long after they return home. Today, throughout Utah, in Protestant and Catholic churches, you can hear the music of Taize incorporated into standard worship services. Some churches, such as the Newman Center, hold regular Taize services, featuring chants in several languages.

Judi Rausch, of Salt Lake, who attends Taize services, explains their beauty. "They make time stand still," she says. The peace she gains from the Taize stays with her. After the evening services, she is always granted a restful night's sleep.

For more information on Taize, visit the Web at www.taize.fr.

E-MAIL: susan@desnews.com