Sometimes these days it seems to be nearly impossible that the different Christian denominations can live together as neighbors and not just tolerate but actually accept and respect each other. When I look at contemporary Christianity and then remember the young man in the desert of Israel who spoke about neighborly love, compassion, simplicity and mercy, I almost feel ashamed because unfortunately I don’t see it all to often in the churches around me.
Having the truth means power. Power means profit. Profit means growth. Growth means (or so they say) that they have the truth.
As a German in the United States I can’t help but feel that this is what some denominations support and even encourage. It seems to be a similar to medieval times when the Catholic Church built its great cathedrals with the money of peasants who were afraid of hell fire. Today, it’s not called sale of indulgence anymore but the concept seems to be the same… and it still works. Are you really a good Christian if you do not sacrifice enough money and time for your church? Whatever “enough” means…
I have always wished for a place that was different.
A place where Christians meet as Christians, not as Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, etc..
A place where they can openly discuss the bible and its implications because the bible (and its meaning) are not written to be jealously guarded by a few select men. It wouldn’t make much sense to have such an important message like the bible and not make it available for everyone.
A place where everyone is welcomed as a sibling, no matter their race, nationality, denomination, level of education, sexual orientation or gender identity.
A place where people can focus on listening to God and be in intimate privacy with God without being disturbed by loud music, or a show act on stage.
A place where, as John Paul II put it: “One passes through as one passes close to a spring of water.”
Luckily, I found this place when I was 15 years old. It exists in a tiny village in southern France called Taizé. The ecumenical Community of Taizé, an order of monks, lives there surrounded by the peaceful landscape of Burgundy. They meet for contemplative prayer three times a day and incorporate aspects of several denominations into their services and lives.
But the best thing about these monks is that they do not keep that little Christian Utopia for themselves. They share it. They share it with the youth of the world. Since the 1960s hundred thousands of young adults have visited this community, shared the life of the brothers for a week, go to daily bible study, discuss the bible in small international groups and learn. They learn so much. About themselves and about others.
They learn openness, compassion, different opinions, cultural diversity, simplicity and above all that in all their differences and diversity they are all children of God. And that is how it is supposed to be.
Or again in the words of pope John Paul II: “One passes through Taizé as one passes close to a spring of water.” Pure, refreshing and entirely good for body and soul.
But why stop here? Why escape to far away monasteries for peace, silence and acceptance? The brothers of Taizé insist that their monastery is not a place to stay but a place to take wings. There is a reason why they have focused on the youth of the world for 60 years. It is us who make tomorrow. It is us who shape the churches, who shape the Christianity of tomorrow. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen fast. But ours is tomorrow’s world, if we dare to start shaping it today.
It’s good to know that we will always have that “spring of water” to strengthen us.