St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is offering Taizé prayer services during Lent on Sundays at 7 p.m. in the chapel at Fifth and Union streets.
Lent, a preparation period in the Christian liturgical calendar leading up to Easter Sunday, is used as a time of prayer, penance and fasting for Christian communities to prepare for the celebration of Easter.
This year, Lent began with Ash Wednesday on Feb. 14 and ends March 31, with Easter the next day.
“Lent is just the start of that getting down to earth,” said Rev. Richard “Red” Stevens.
He explained that the word “Lent” means “lengthening of days,” and should be thought of as “springtime and new growth, not doom and destruction.”
“I don’t think [Lent] should be approached with any false piety…just with the business of getting ready for life,” he said.
There is also a misconception that Lent is about individuals mending their relationship with God, rather than as a group, Stevens said.
“We’re not just individuals in society, we’re structured as social creatures,” he said, “we celebrate together, we commiserate together … so why shouldn’t we go about mending relationships together as a group?” That communal energy is what Stevens wants to bring to his congregation during Lent this year. “It should be a social time, that’s why we try even harder during Lent to have weekly [activities],” he said.
One such activity is the weekly Taizé prayer services.
“[Taizé] acts as a trigger to get your mind centered,” said Stevens.
Taizé (pronounced tay-zay) originated in France and was founded by reformed-Protestant Brother Roger Schütz (called just Brother Roger by the Taizé community) in the 1940’s.
The international community is currently headed by Brother Alois, who succeeded Schütz after his death in 2005.
The practice emphasizes the communal aspect of Christianity, focusing on prayer and music and promoting ecumenism, or the visible and organic unity of different Christian denominations.
Globally, the services are primarily targeted towards youth; but Stevens insists that “for us, it’s for the whole,” and all ages are invited to participate.
St. Paul’s Taizé services will be about 40 minutes long, Stevens said, and will consist of short meditations and repetitive singing, supplemented by periods of silence.
“It’s just a prayer break,” he said, “it’s the opportunity to be with people who are quiet.”
Another reason Stevens is using this prayer model for Lent is because “we like to sing, so we’re going to do that.”
The services will each have the same framework, but the content will change to progress through the liturgical season, Stevens said.
St. Paul’s has offered the Taizé prayer services during Lent for several years, and has occasionally offered them during Advent, the four-week preparation period before Christmas.
“It’s a movable type of service. Anytime is a good time,” Stevens said.
During Lent, St. Paul’s will continue to offer their regular half-hour daily noon service at the chapel and will have a full schedule of service for Holy Week, the week before Easter.
More information on St. Paul’s Evangelical Church can be found online at www.stpaulsthedalles.org. The church is located at 1805 Minnesota St., The Dalles, and the chapel is on the corner of Fifth and Union.
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