"Remember that God will always be with you and that will never change"
These were the very simple words of one young pilgrim as she departed from the Taizé Birmingham weekend. On Monday 1st May Christians from diverse nationalities, cultures, denominations and languages left Birmingham filled with a sense of Gospel possibility. Another pilgrim left with the words: "I am heading home as the best version of me”.
Over the Bank Holiday weekend more than 600 young adults were welcomed by the local churches for Taizé Birmingham. Coming from different parts of the UK and from around thirty different countries they joined the Taizé Community for a weekend of prayer, community, bible study, and to reflect on the Gospel call for solidarity with those in suffering and need.
On Sunday Evening Rowan Williams spoke during the evening prayer on the theme of welcoming the stranger. "God is already present in every human being" he said, "We see Jesus in unexpected places and faces". Dr. Williams called upon the young adults from a diverse range of denominations to open themselves to discovering something new of God in those who are very different, from those of other faiths and of no faith.
At the final prayer on Monday morning in St. Chad’s Cathedral, Br. Alois, the prior of Taizé, called upon the young to be "Ambassadors of Reconciliation", he told those present that "God wishes to gather into one community both men and women, children and elderly people, to make this reality visible it takes courage, the courage to go towards others carrying a reflection of God’s love."
Participants were allocated to one of nine host neighbourhoods in Birmingham where local churches worked together across denominations to welcome the young adults into their homes, every participants was able to stay in a home. In each area they shared in a Saturday morning programme involving prayer and discovering some of the hidden treasures of each neighbourhood. On the Sunday morning each pilgrim joined a local church for their usual time of worship.
In the afternoons and evenings all of the young pilgrims gathered as one for times of prayer which took place at St. Martin in the Bullring. All together the pilgrims and their local hosts prayed together in the simple Taizé style which consists of simple chants and silence.
Then through the afternoons there were workshops on diverse themes of solidarity including refugee welcome, ecology, the arms trade, homelessness, prison ministry, and vocation. There were also opportunities to take part in creative workshops, painting icons, or learning Indian dancing.
Local organiser Matthew Neville reflects: "Birmingham has been immensely blessed by the great joy and diversity of these young people, by their presence among us these pilgrims have helped us to see new possibilities for ecumenism, and to find a new energy for service in our city. Now we are challenged to move forward, together discovering where God is calling us to work and to share his message of love, reconciliation and joy"