LETTER FROM THE VICAR
I keep a quote from Brother Roger of Taizé on my desk. It was given to us by the Abbott of Mucknall Abbey at a Bishop's teaching morning, a few years back. Bro. Roger was a founder of the Taizé community, in Eastern France, after the Second World War. Taizé was to be a symbol of hope for a peaceful and diverse Europe. It was to bring people together.
The war had been divisive and genocidal, driven by a contempt for people who were not healthy 'white' Europeans of 'Germanic' or 'Nordic' origin. Thinking which meant such 'inferior' people could be murdered or enslaved with impunity. This thinking had been channeled through the writings of the mentally unstable Adolf Hitler and based on the philosophy that the strongest 'man' must crush his weaker rivals and dominate them. This was the 'natural' order. It owed everything to the unconscious anxieties and insecurities of the men who dreamed it up, rather than to anything else.
Bro. Roger tried to come from the thinking of Jesus. He wanted to counter the hate-filled thinking that had destroyed so much during the war years.
The "Joyful News"
The Risen Christ comes to quicken a festival in our innermost heart.
He is preparing for us a springtime of the Church: a Church devoid of means of power, ready to share with all, a place of visible communion with all humanity.
He is going to give us enough imagination and courage to open up a way of reconciliation.
He is going to prepare us to give our lives so that people may no longer be the victims of others.
My understanding of his words is that the kind of church Bro. Roger saw in the future will be based, not on commanding and ordering people, but on being weak and helpless, like those who are outside the powerful institutions of the world? If we are rich and powerful, then how can we be "in communion" with the poor and helpless? There is a power difference, which was the point of Jesus' continual challenge to everyone, throughout the gospels. By sitting where the weak sit, we will be capable of bringing everyone together: the poor, because we will be like them, and the rich because maybe we won't represent a competitor or threat to their power? People are often the victims of others. That was true in World War II and continues to be so today. It offends against everything in the Gospels and in the Old Testament.
Our Diocesan Synod meets in July. Please pray for its deliberations, much of it about how to minister, effectively, on reduced income. Please pray for Bishop John and those who bear the responsibilities of ministry. We all share in an inheritance of power, which comes with our church institutions and buildings. Attendance continues to decline and, with it, the income that the Diocese receives, however. That presents big challenges for the future, including what kind of Church we will look like?
I often think of the tens of thousands of young people from all over the world who flock to Taizé each summer. Sometimes there are as many as 30,000 camped out. Bro. Roger's vision has certainly come, partly, to fruition. Taizé presents the face of a 'church' which is truly "devoid of all means of power, ready to share with all, a place of visible communion with all humanity". Jesus recognised how hard it is for people to embrace his radical teaching. But, eventually, we have to lay down our earthly treasures, take up our cross and follow our Master if we are to enter the gates of heaven: and, maybe also, if we are to be a Church of reconcilers and a place of "communion with all humanity"?