French retreat puts ‘parable of community’ into practice


By Rev. Bruce Case
Guest Columnist

When I stepped off France’s high speed train in Macon, France I was a little uneasy. I heard no one uttering the only language I know well. I needed to find the bus to Taize — an ecumenical Christian community that attracts thousands of Christians every year. I almost missed the bus that day to one of the most amazing weeks of my life. I’m glad I didn’t.

The community of Taize traces its roots back to World War II, when a brave Dutch Reformed priest from Switzerland hid Jews in Taize and worked with agencies around the world to get them to safety. Brother Roger, who died tragically in 2005, had a dream that Taize could be a “parable of community” for the world to see what reconciliation in Christ could look like. For over 50 years, God has worked in amazing ways through Brother Roger’s dream.

During worship, beautiful songs from all over the world are sung. These songs get deep within your bones by the end of the week. They are about our hope in Christ’s work, forgiveness and love. One song might be sung in French, then another in German, then another in English. You catch on quickly, even to the songs in other languages. One of the brothers reads scripture in five different languages. They pick scripture that needs no clarification. Their only agenda is the reconciliation of the world through Christ’s love. Taize also offers Bible study and plenty of time to make new friends with Christians from every continent. Everything — schedule, time, food, fellowship, worship and silence — is designed to get the two main things in our life back into focus: God and the people God loves.   

I was reminded by the end of the week that I serve the Lord of the universe — the One who embraces and loves all nations and cultures and races. It yanked me out of my mistaken, default assumption that God is tribal and provincial. We’ve got a lot of brothers and sisters in this world. Our family speaks many languages and comes from every corner. God is not distant, and neither is my brother in Christ who lives in Leipzig, Germany. Christ’s peace for the world is not only possible — but inevitable. When we join the body of Christ for the reconciliation of the world, our work is never in vain.

This is what I learned from my week at Taize.  I’ve taken this “aha” back with me to Hattiesburg and it has affected every part of my life. No exaggeration.

Don’t wait as long as I did to experience the “parable of community” that awaits you in Taize, France. Take advantage of the Mississippi Annual Conference Young Adult trip to Taize next summer. Churches, find someone in your congregation that you’d like to help get to Taize. Our churches and our conference will be stronger as a result of this opportunity. Don’t miss the bus.

Case is pastor of Court Street United Methodist in Hattiesburg. Contact him at Find out more about the Mississippi Conference Taize 2009 trip by joining the Facebook group Taize 2009.