Who am I to judge?

 

We live 20 km away from the town, where Huldrych Zwingli, one of the five best known reformation leaders founded his new church. Over last three weeks we could see how different denominations dance together. In Langnau we took part in the ecumenical service in the protestant church. The atmosphere was cheerful. Much singing and applause. Astonishingly enough, the was no cross whatsoever in the church. Later we talked to the head of the congregation to find out that the crosses rarely appear in their churches as they try do get rid of all possible symbols. For some it might be appalling, for others nothings special.

In turn, the catholic church in Langnau is placed on the hill and the flat of the parish priest is located on the very last floor. As we tasted the delicacies from the parish cook and enjoyed the view of the neighbourhood from the window, we had a conversation. Sitting at the very top, we let our thoughts plunge  very deeply.  Why no more than 5% of 0,the registered catholics go to the church? What the remaining 95% are missing in the pastoral care? How the community gets on with their protestant neighbours? Is there ‘we and them’? Why in the region of Zurich is predominantly catholic, even though Switzerland has such a rich rradition of the reformed church?

First came the reformation and according to the principle cuius regio eius religio (yes yes, all three of us learnt Latin at school:) the rulers banned the catholic church in the region. In the middle of the 19th century there were more and more women coming from Italy. Many of them worked in big spinning mills in Langnau. As they were catholic, they thought that they just had to have a priest. The masses were first held at homes and then they built in Langnau the first catholic church and parish house since the 15th century. It was exactly where we were now. Migrants from eastern and southern Europe have contributed to the fact that there are now so many catholics in this area. In the neighbouring parish there is even a Polish priest.

The communication between the catholic and reformed church has its bright and shady moments. There are plenty of ecumenical get-togethers. We arranged, cleaned, served food, sang and sold fair trade products on such interconfessional events. Next Sunday we are going to the Baptist church as they regularly organize a Taize prayer.

There are also challenges difficult to play down. There is a certain percentage of people who do not explicitly show their reluctance to the other confession but in fact they would be happy to stigmatize the other group – some Catholics would imprint the letter “R” on the backs of the Reformed, some Reformed would keenly stigmatize the Catholics with the letter “K”. It is now not allowed to organise a Corpus Christi procession withn the town area because the non-Catholics might feel uncomfortable about it. So there were priests who arranged it far on the fields.

Taize teaches us to respect the differences and seek the similarities. The parish priest of Langnau does his best to make sure that all people who come to his church feel at home, regardless of the denomination :

I know that about one third of people who attend my services are not Catholics. They just come and they receive the holy communion. I am not a judge to say, ‘you are not Catholic, you are divorced and live in new relationship’ or whatever else. I do not refuse to give communion to anyone. Jesus also would not make a difference.

To me it was an echo of what pope Francis once said when asked about his attitude to homosexual people: “Who I am to judge?”

Maciek

 

 

 

 

5 minutes of “Ranft”

Once upon a time there was a Brother. He grew up among steep hills of Switzerland. Once day he left his promising career. He left his family, upon their consent. He travelled a little bit and finally in the place where hills, water and an old church make out a fabulous scenery, he set up a place where you can encounter God, where many people pilgrimage.

Does it ring a bell to you, Taize people? Brother Roger? Yes and no. The very same description applies to another Brother. St. Brother Klaus. Not a Taize Brother, but the most famous Swiss saint. It is right today that we celebrate his 600th birth anniversary

At the age of 50, he left his wife and ten children as he believed to be called by God to live a solidary, hermit life. At a first glance it appeared to me highly controversial that the Church canonised him.But let’s leave this controversy to the Holy Spirit.

I really enjoy those moments when the last person leaves the evening prayer in the room called Olive Tree which overlooks the lake. and then I feel that there is really me and God. It has a particular taste and flair. I think of Taize in the forties and Brother Roger who regularly left the village a few times a day in order to loudly pray in the woods. I think of Brother Klaus who prayed at home, long before he left. He often got up in the middle of the night, went to the kitchen and knelt close to the stove to get immersed in God.

Today we took a pilgrimage to fetch the relics of Brother Klaus and to visit him in the depth. in the very bottom of the Alpine valley. The place is called Ranft. It is here that Brother Klaus set up his hermitage. Strangely enough it was just 15 minute walk away from his family house. In his sparely furnished room he had two windows. One overlooked the altar of the chapel, the other one – alpine peaks. To me it is a clear sign that I need to have my two eyes open, one for God and what he whispers to me and the other for daily routine, beauty of life and the needs of others, sometimes whispered unobtrusively between the lines.

In Taize there is the Source – a green area with some water to stay in silence. Here we had a stream Melchaa to refresh body and mind. We could put off our shoes to feel the freezing water and choose the stone for our parish installation. The priest from Thalwil intends to do an intriguing installation behind the church. As Brother Klaus’s pillow was a stone, Marios, the priest, intends to arrange a bench with a stone-pillow and a book about Brother Klaus, so that the community members have a cosy place for reflection and prayer. So we  entered the stream and rolled up the trousers to get hold of the stones.

The silence is Ranft has a special taste. The silence undisturbed by an astonishingly small number of pilgrims given such a round anniversary. The silence not abused by our midday prayers. There are two churches and two chapels. We entered each of them and everywhere we ventured a short Taize prayer with a handfull of people gathered inside.

Ranft, the valley cutely set among steep mountains is an invitation to go deep inside ourselves. To the very bottom of our desires, dreams, wounds. This is why in Switzerland there is a church campaign for “more Ranft”

Dear reader. If you have read until this point, congratulations! Please, please, don’t let it be just an entertainment or a nice reading. Please make your own Ranft now. Just put your phone or computer aside and spend 5 minutes in silence.

 

Maciek

What is a church?

It was during the preparation for the evening prayer last Friday which was the first public evening prayer in Oberrieden. In terms of the content, everything was quite clear, but we had different opinions about the arrangement of the church interior. Each of us hastily drew a sketch of the church presenting his own ideas about how the chairs, the cross and the candles should be set up. In hurry we paid little attention to the proportions. Small wonder then that the circular church building resembled times an egg, times a mushroom. But still, everyone commented his outline with the remark: “This is the church”.

As I took a look at those three circle-like drawings I was amused and asked “What is a church?”. The three of us laughed and worked on.

But afterwards the question still haunted me: “What is a church?”

 

What is a church?

Immediately, thousands of pictures crossed my mind.

Old and new churches, little and big churches, thick and thin …

I thought of the church in my home parish,

of the little Romanic church in the village of Taizé,

of the majestic dome in Speyer,

of the youth church in my hometown illuminated with spotlights.

And in the middle of all this, the three churches that we got to know here at the Zurich Lake:

Langnau with its big glass front,

the traditional building in Thalwil

and the rotunda in Oberrieden mentioned in the beginning;

each of them with its own, exciting history.

But somehow that didn’t answer my question. Wasn’t a church something more than a sanctified building, something more than tangible?

 

What is a church?

Press headlines came into my mind:

“The church compliments …”,

“The church criticises …”,

“The church allows …”,

“The church says …”;

many news highlights about decisions, statements and ideas which appeal to me times more times less.

But this too could not be the answer. Wasn’t a church something more than an institution that issues decisions, positions and proposals?

 

What is a church?

I had to think about recent days here at the Zurich Lake – by now we’ve already crossed the halftime of our small provisional community.

I remembered the services we were involved with,

Taizé prayers,

caring about little kids in the kindergarten and the twinkle in their eyes,

many conversations with pupils, times challenging, times purely joyful;

different “Soup-Days”, when many people gathered to eat and talk,

the plant-workshop related to the Lent,

cooking for old ladies.

In all this I recalled the kaleidoscope of faces: dedicated employees and volunteers who make all that possible day by day, with lots of energy and joy. And I also recalled all the others who eagerly and gratefully respond.

 

The word “church” comes from the Greek kyriaké” which means “the Lord’s (house)”.

Of cause a house needs walls, open (!) windows and doors, as well as committed management. But what would a house be without people inside? They are the ones who fill the house with life and the taste of God.

 

 

A song written by Anton Schwarzmann, Johannes Klehr and Stefan Hoffmann says:

 

Dies Haus aus Stein,                                      This house made of stones,

es soll lebendig sein.                                      it has to be alive.

Gebaut für uns, für jedes Kind,                       Built for us, for every child,

für alle, die Gemeinde sind.                            for all who make a community.

 

That is the answer! That is a church!

Sebastian

 

From the diary of an altar boy who became a preacher

 

 

How peculiar is a life of three novice altar boys who jumped into the bandwagon of serving in three parishes at a time, each of them coming from a different cultural region – North Germany, South Germany and Poland!  Many questions and magic words make us vulnerable to mistakes. It is sometimes good to make mistakes. Big entrance, little entrance, (kleiner und großer Einzug), How should we approach the altar? Who goes first? To bow or to kneel? Who kneels first? On which knee? Did an

elderly organist understand well how many time to play a Taize song?  Why on earth didn’t the priest tell the Creed as we agreed? Each parish has its own rules. This confusion is kind of beautiful. Swiss altar boys have more splendid costumes than Polish ones, but on the football pitch, they would probably little to say against their colleagues from central-eastern Europe.  Yesterday we were temporarily promoted from altar boys to preachers, as in the course of the sermon we were asked: “What advice for life would you give us?” To stroll between the pew aisles with a mic was a pleasure and an honour.  To see people laughing and smiling was a reward. By the way,  We, Taize boys gain experience day by day. Indeed we could take over the whole Mass – one would play the organ, another would, give a sermon, yet another would do perfect reading. Oh, sorry…. we still need a priest!

But don’t worry. We are working on it!

 

 

Priests from Taize served by old ladies.

Sometimes you have to put more effort into letting other people serve you, rather than in serving.

Once we were invited for a lunch and two ladies of approx. 80. served soup to everyone and didn’t want any help. i felt slightly embarassed because I didn’t go for small Taize community in order to be served food by  an old granny. But still it is the part of the story. God called us not only to give, but also to receive with love. The old lady is emerging behind me and asking “would you like more”? God also does not just only give us our due portion of love, but He keeps asking “do you want more”?

as we first spoke with the lady, she asked “the question of the day” which made us almost laugh our heads off

“are you future priests?”

Maciek

There are young people and young people.

In the first week we have already worked with many young people. Firstly we worked with children aged 2 to 3. Like all kids, they were very loud and hyperactive. I needed to show a lot of patience to handle them, but at the end it was funny because when I saw them running and playing I recalled my childhood because I was quite like them.

Secondly we worked with pupils aged 12-13 as a part of the Lent project that deals with landgrabbing. They were very curious and worked very hard. In our workshops they had good ideas and phantasy.

Thirdly we worked with confirmands. We got to know two types of them. On the one hand there were undisciplined and nasty types. It wasn’t the problem for me to handle them, but to teach them Taize-stuff was an issue because they were not interested.  On the other hand we worked with confirmands who were very kind and interested, so it made a lot of fun to share with them our Taize experiences. I hope we were able to convince them to give it a try.

 

Jan

 

 

 

Taize and Chiquita

People shake our hands. People smile to us. People invite us for lunch. So the temptation to feel like the glorious missionaries of Taize was right at the door. Luckily we also sometimes face a non-applauding audience. A dozen of teenagers were obliged to attend our Taize workshops and prayer, as it was the part of their religious education. Most of them were “when may I finally go home”- types. In the playful intro game they said they would primarily take to Taize iphone, notebook and tablet. After watching a short film about Taize we worked in three small groups to give the youngsters some food for thought and share our Taize experiences. All over the room I spread small cards with the suggestions of what you can say in a personal prayer. They walked around and were to choose the best ones to use when they happen to pray. It was loud and we had to push our way through laughter and silly remarks. As the ambassadors of Taize we could feel a bit like Chiquita guys with bananas standing on the street with other people giving us some puzzled looks of “what do those people from another planet have in common with us?’

In this atmosphere we were to start a normal Taize prayer in a small room with 20 rowdy youths. It was my turn to be in charge of the prayer. Initially the prayer was hardly louder than giggles, whispers and silly noises. I decide here. Interrupt the prayer?  Give them a teacher-look? ‘No Maciek, stay calm and keep praying ‘ – the inner voice told me. The silence part ensued but the silence wasn’t silent. A bunch of boys sitting at the very front made fun of it all, though they weren’t just loud.  What shall I do? Silence them? Ask them out of the room? ‘Do you job Maciek, don’t get provoked’. I just slightly shortened the silence. Close to the end of the service, instead of reading the reflection I decided to spontaneously use the words  of prayer that my inner voice whispered to me. As I started to speak and not read, I was astonished to hear the silence. Just a few thoughts up to the loving Father. Just one more Taize song to HIM and that was it. There was a temptation to shorten the prayer because of them and they just needed 20 minutes to calm down .

Feedback from one of the participants;

“I realized that Taize is a place where even without internet you can meet interesting people”

The game was worth it. Lord. Thank you that you didn’t let us give up in the middle.

(Maciek)

Prayer on wheels

 

Just a week ago at the same time, the three of us were sitting in the bus to Chalon. The start of our journey was also the start of our adventure “small provisional community”, and none of us knew what would be in store for us in Switzerland.

Right now we’ve been living here in this beautiful region for as many as seven days. In those days we haven’t just got acquainted with our three host parishes and our tasks but also with each other. We look back at a week full of hearty meetings and interesting conversations with the inhabitants of Oberrieden, Thalwil and Langnau, which definitely helped us to settle in. Our schedule is as manifold as the three parishes. And so we experienced the first week as a varied mixture of prayers, services, conferences, practical work, conversations and much more. In particular we’ve grown to like our calendar which is a trusty companion to us three “business people of Taize” on our commutes between the three communes.

However, the well-stuffed calendar and different places of activity resulted in an unforgettable occurrence: Actually it was time for midday prayer but we were driving from Thalwil to Langnau. Suddenly one of us started to sing “Confitemini Domino” and we joined in. A bible text was quickly found, and so the “prayer on wheels” took shape.

One of multiple unforgettable events of this first week, and many more will follow …

(Sebastian)

Flowers grow in the church

Have you ever seen the flowers growing in the middle of the church in the centre of Europe? This is exactly what we came across in the parish church of Thalwal, where we held some Taize prayers. Amazing! In the main nave they set a natural installation for the Lent. Around Ash Wednesday they planted many flowers in a huge box. They are going to blossom around Easter time. What a symbol! I am one of those flowers. I have a special gardener named Holy Spirit who brings me spiritual food day by day.  This food is regular prayer, daily biblical readings and discussions with our hosts and community brothers long into the night. Thanks to this I grow and become more beautiful. We can only imagine what the flowers in Thalwal will look like in the Resurrection Sunday. We can only guess what flower I will become. My gardener is awesome, so I also hope to be awesome. I just have to keep my leaves opens to HIS water and never forget that HE want me to blossom colourfully for others , not just for myself.

(Maciek)