Church school pupils reflect on ‘life-changing’ Taize pilgrimage

Students from church schools in the diocese have been reflecting on a memorable and for some, life-changing, experience on the Archbishop of York’s Youth Pilgrimage to Taize, a Christian community in France.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu led 166 students and staff from Yorkshire,  including pupils from Church of England schools in Leeds and Barnsley, to Taizé for nine days of camping, fellowship and worship with the Taize community.

Founded in 1940 by Roger Louis Schutz-Marsauche (known as 'Brother Roger'), the Taizé Community is based in the Burgundy region of France. An ecumenical monastic order of mainly Catholic and Protestant communities drawn together from thirty countries across the world, it is well known for its music, used world-wide, and visits and pilgrimages by young people from across the globe.

The Yorkshire Schools Pilgrimage, coordinated by the Archbishop of York Youth Trust, included Year 10, 11 and Post 16 students from seven schools in the region including Abbey Grange CE Academy, Leeds (pictured below/right) and Holy Trinity, Carlton,  Barnsley (pictured left/above)

Dan Finn, the Director of the Youth Trust, said, “So many young people have told me that this week has been life changing experience for them. Be it through the friendships they’ve made, the discoveries they’ve made about themselves as well as the revelation that God loves them deeply. And all this has come through the experience of community. We were not made to be and live in isolation, and through God’s love experienced in community, it is possible to be the change that we need to see in the world.

“As we return home, I pray that these young people will continue to be inspired by Taize, to work for peace and unity in their communities, standing firm in the knowledge that they are deeply loved by God and that they can be the hope for our world.”

Reflections from students included the following thoughts:

 “At the beginning of the week the Taize church services felt a little unusual and in some ways unnerving. However, as the week progressed the time spent in the church allowed a sense of renewal as we reflected upon daily life and felt more comforted by the silence. The hymns repeated in sequence help us take away a sense of peace which we will be able to remember when repeated elsewhere.”

“Taize church services have a freeing atmosphere as you forget the everyday issues of modern life. Overall the general vibe has a tranquility that draws you closer to faith.”

“During the build-up to Taize, I was worried about the religious aspect of the church services. Until after a couple of days it opened my eyes to a new perspective of Christianity unseen before. It has helped me question and consider looking further into Christianity.”

“From a Christian perspective, the presence of God is imminent as you enter the church. The awe of God’s grace is surrounding you through the acts of kindness of others. It helps you look deeper into the mannerisms of Christ and how he affects everyone individually.”

“People from across the globe gather in Taize through the power of Christ. Through this, we have met many new faces with life stories we will never forget. It’s all fun and games meeting new people but pronouncing their names can be a struggle; therefore meet our new friends “Ladida” and “Shrimp”!! They are Dutch but also speak their native language Friesian - we have learnt so many new cultural differences and languages.”

“We are thankful for our new friendships.  As we now prepare to leave and return to the UK we take with us the memories and a hunger to explore the stories of Christ and what it means to be Christian. We will take with us a sense of renewal as we return to our normal lives that will be influenced by the Taize way of living.”

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