I was back in St Mary's Somerstown this evening where I spent a night earlier in the year helping at a homeless shelter.
This evening it was for a memorial service for Brother Roger.
The service was incredibly moving. Fr Rob Wickham invited us all to share memories of Br Roger and our time at Taize.
The first man to stand up shared with us a poem that he had written a few years ago reflecting how one day "the coach would come for Br Roger". It sounds a little cheesy but it was a lovely idea that the way so many of us leave Taize each year was used as a metaphor for Roger's passing to the next world. This set the bar rather high for the type of thing people would share with everyone and a certain hush did settle over the church. Being contrary, as I often am, I considered this therefore a good time to share my rather pathetic reflection - I mean if it's going to seem pathetic, it may as well seem pathetic after something REALLY good!
So I told the assembled company how a group of us had been to Taize only three weeks before, how we had seen Roger clearly older and more frail and yet still smiling, still warm and still incredibly inspiring. I seemed to make at least three of our group cry which on reflection might be a good thing. Not sure! Yet for me this was not the high point. It was wonderful to see one of the young people stand up and share what Taize means to her.
For her Taize and all that Roger stood for was a place of meeting, of building friendships and of strengthening bonds between people. Not only was I ever so proud that one of them stood up but I was so proud that she said something so profound. It was also pretty much just what I needed to hear and really helped me settle something which has been keeping me awake the last few nights. The service this evening proved her point. We were there with people we had met this year and over the years, from Osford, from London and from as far affield as Chester. Even this evening a new link was made between two people from different towns origninally but now going to the same University city.
Someone observed that Taize doesn't do anything extraordinary or clever. It is merely a simple place where a group of people pray together three times a day. "Noting special happens here" one of the brothers observed apparently. Yet is in that simplicity that the complexities of life are lost and brought to meaninglessness. It is in that simplicity that people can meet without the stuff of life getting in the way and meet therefore in an open way which lays firm foundations for deep friendships and more.
Brother Roger established a simple community with a simple mission of love and hospitality. A simple place based on the simplicity of the gospel. A place that allows us to become like little children in our faith; to ask the stupid questions and seek answers; to sit humbly in silence not babbling on in prayer; to meet with people as they are without pretensions to status or wealth. It is a place which is trully building the kingdom and which sends out small pieces of the kingdom in the form of the young people it brings together.
Taize is not trendy or clever and yet thousands of young people flock there each year and then long to return. What does this say for our youth programming?