By Stanley Campbell
Rockford is a praying community. We have, so far, more houses of worship than bars (the liquor establishments are catching up; one big casino will surpass Heartland, First Assembly and First Free Evangelical combined).
And I like to pray, the louder and more public the better! Rockford Urban Ministries, for which I work, once hosted prayer vigils at homicide sites. We would go to the neighborhood where a murder had occurred and say a short prayer, usually with the neighbors. CeaseFire has the same idea, and it sometimes has a cookout afterwards.
With the 50th anniversary of RUM, we have hosted an annual dinner and a program of reminiscences. One more event is in store: Wednesday, July 18, RUM will host a Taize Service at Anderson Japanese Gardens, free and open to the public. Now, everybody is familiar with the most beautiful Japanese garden in the Midwest, if not the world. They have a small pavilion usually reserved for weddings. People will be welcome to stroll around the garden after the prayer service. The service consists of five prayers interspersed with music and hymns. Organist Ron Burmeister has coordinated Taize Prayer Services and will be leading the music portion of the service.
Taizé is a meditative prayer service that incorporates simple, repetitive song and chant, scripture readings, and periods of group silence in a setting of peace. It fosters communion with God, if you will. Through Taizé, participants can worship in a community setting, yet remain open to the voice of God and discover the prayer within themselves.
Taizé Prayer is ecumenical, meant to foster reconciliation and peace among people. Taizé Prayer is a meditative common prayer. We sing uncomplicated repetitive songs, uncluttered by too many words, allowing the mystery of God to become tangible through the beauty of simplicity.
The Taizé Community is a real place, an ecumenical monastic order in Taizé, Burgundy, France. It is composed of about one hundred brothers, from Protestant and Catholic traditions, who originate from about 30 countries around the world. The monastic order has a strong devotion to peace and justice through prayer and meditation. It was founded in 1940 by Brother Roger Schutz, a Protestant.
The community has become one of the world’s most important sites of Christian pilgrimage. More than 100,000 young people from around the world make pilgrimages to Taizé each year for prayer, Bible study, sharing and communal work. Through the community’s ecumenical outlook, they are encouraged to live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation.
I am not naïve enough to believe simple prayers will bring about world peace, but I do know voicing your needs in an attitude of prayer sometimes produces results. When we conducted those prayer services at murder sites around the city, there seemed to be a respite from the killing, at least for a couple of months. Now, whether the Holy Spirit moved among the people or the gang-bangers actually held their fire for a time, I don’t know. But I do know that it felt good to go into a hurting community, stand with the neighbors, and express out loud a hope for peace and security. The Japanese Gardens might not be a neighborhood in need of prayer, but it sure is a wonderful place to say a prayer. I’m glad people are donating their time and musical talents to celebrate 50 years of RUM; Lord knows we need as many prayers for peace as possible.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the July 11-17, 2012, issue