Being away for a week did feel both like a lifetime and like the blinking of an eye.
So much happened with the group that was there but in many ways it seems that so much more was happening in the world outside.
I was fortunate that a good friend called me with news on Wednesday that Brother Roger of Taize had been killed in a seemingly insane act of violence during a prayer service at the Taize Community. It was a really sudden burst of the real world into our little community of young people and leaders. I had to sit down for a while and take a few precious minutes out to let the news filter through to me and then settle before I had to carry on with the day. I started thinking that I could just swallow the mix of shock and distress that the news caused me and just get on but I realised I really couldn't do that so I did something that rather surprised me. The young people were assembled to go off site for the day and I told them all the news and explained that I might be a bit less than perky for the day and apologised in advance if I snapped at them. It's only now really, that I'm off duty that I've started to think and feel about it though and I admit I'm a little jealous of a friend who has booked a place on a coach going to Taize for the funeral. However a group of those of us who were there this summer will be going to the memorial service in London.
Br Roger was an inspiring man though it was clear to me this year that he no longer had the energy he had demonstrated even last year when we were there. The fact that Br roger died was no shock. His dying was something I admit I had rather expected at some point over the next few months. I had a feeling that we wouldn't be seeing him next year. In fact, it was when a new brother made his commitment on the Saturday night that we were there that I had a strong feeling that Br Bart would be the last brother that Br Roger would welcome into the community.
However the mode of his death is deeply saddening and distressing. It was only two weeks ago that I was in that spot in the Church of Reconciliation. It was there that I was in charge of keeping the silence. I can picture what might have happened and my heart goes out to the brothers and the young people who would have been present and witness the events. I am also mindful of those who would have been leading groups and responsible for the pastoral care of some very distressed people. This may all sound rather down but in fact I think Br Roger's concern would have been for these people and for the woman responsible. It was that overwhelming love for people and his gentle guidance of those seeking answers to questions that made him the great man that he was and he will always be remembered as such.
My thoughts on it all are ramblings and babbling at the moment really but there are good words about it on the BBC and at Phil's blog.
The other news that burst into the busy times at the youth holiday was another death. Mo Mowlam died after a long illness. She was a woman whom I grew to admire especially for her tenacity and her sense of the ridiculous. I will never forget the story of her taking off her wig and throwing it into the middle of the table during discussions over Northern Ireland. Mo used her own health struggles to help show the men gathered around that discussion table that life was about more than their own agenda.
So perhaps I might be feeling low that two great examples of humanity have died. Yet I'm not especially down about that. These two people did that which I strive to do (but mostly fail, I think) they lived lives wholly committed to doing their best and living out their God given gifts. In dying they did no more or less than any of us will do. Death is part of life as it is for all of us. So, it is for their lives that I will remember them.