Monday, June 24, 2013

From Texas to Taizé: Brother Alois

This is the latest chapter on my musings from my pilgrimage to Taizé.  It was a stellar trip with some awesome young leaders from the Central Texas Conference, led by Bishop Mike Lowry and Rev. Larry Duggins of the Missional Wisdom Foundation.  For more on the journey, see here.

Wednesday of our week in Taizé marked a rather rare occasion in the life of the community - Brother Alois (in a sense the Abbot of the community) was home from his world-travelling ministry and would be addressing the pilgrims following evening worship.  We knew upon the announcement of this discussion, that we were in for a blessed occasion.

As we came into worship that night, we were directed to set in specific places according to the languages we spoke.  Of course, being American, we sat in one of the English speaking sections where we found a bank of headphones.  Brother Alois would be speaking in French, but the thoughtful brothers had translators designated to make sure everyone heard the address - so awesome.  So at the close of worship, we passed out our headphones and sat at attention.  Our group was also blessed to find that we were sitting just a few feet from where Bro. Alois would be addressing the 2,500.  He spoke from the center of the Church of Reconciliation, where the brothers read scripture for worship.  We sat, and he sat on a simple chair.  It was so humble.

We all sat at attention as he spoke to us of Pentecost, the season in which we found ourselves and the spirit of which served as an inspiration for the community.  I took notes as furiously as I could, but I'm no reporter.  It wasn't a long talk with us, just a few minutes, and Bro. Alois spoke slowly so that the translators could keep up.  As I sift through my notes, many of which need their own translator, here are a few nuggets from Bro Alois' as he reflected on Pentecost ...

The Holy Spirit is the life of God Himself and lives deep within each one of us. 
But how do we discover the presence of the Holy Spirit?  In community, the church. [And] It is not enough to reflect and to share, but also to celebrate together, singing, believing in a personal relationship with the Spirit. 
By sending the Spirit, God keeps us awake and disturbs us.  It leads us not to follow our own projects but also to follow Christ. 
Even when we don't feel we can turn to Christ, the Spirit carries us.

This is just a little bit of a short talk.  During his time Bro Alois made a few announcements, and shared a few stories.  In a great moment, in light of a freezing cold snap in the region, Bro Alois extended  a welcoming hand from the Brothers to those in the campgrounds that they would open up more of the dorms to bring in the cold people.  It was an applause worthy moment.

And in a touching moment, a child read the names of the countries present in Taizé for the week:

Columbia, USA, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Puerto Rico (Yes!), Russia, Finland, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland, France,  China, Indonesia, India, Myanmar ...

I know that missed a few, it went by so fast.  We had been told in the end that  we were pilgrims with people from 35 other countries.

Brother Alois concluded his chat by informing us that the next day he and a few other brothers would be leaving France and heading for the Dakotas in America, to be in holy conversation with the Sioux tribe of Native Americans.  He and the other brothers were invited to come and "live in teepees for a few days, to pray in the open air and experience the gospel beyond barriers".

And he ended with this simple statement:
Christ came to breakdown barriers.
Thanks be to God, Amen.