Ordinand Kate Wells (pictured, kneeling in the front row, with sunglasses) revelled in the simplicity of life at Taizé and learned from its discomforts when she helped to lead a group of 31 students from Archbishop Holgate’s Church of England Academy, York, on the Archbishop of York’s Youth Trust Pilgrimage recently.

“Taizé is a little village in the Burgundy countryside and the Christian community there has rather taken over. Every week thousands of pilgrims from all over the world descend in this little village to pray, study the bible and serve each other, under the care of the Brothers of Taizé.

“The Brothers live a life of simplicity and that is infectious. The accommodation is simple; benches are the order of the day and you quickly discover there is a knack to getting up off a bench without tipping everyone else off onto the floor!

“Before I went, the chaplain at Archbishop Holgate’s warned me that the food was like prison food. Having been, I know exactly what he means!

“Part of the simplicity is the lack of cutlery so you become very adept at spreading soft cheese on bread with the handle of a spoon whilst balancing the tray on your knee and trying not to fall off the bench!”

There is a lot of joy at Taizé, says Kate, and part of it is the sense of coming together.

“There are no divisions at Taizé. Everyone worships together, we all try to sing in each other’s languages, the bible is read in many languages.

“You find yourself having conversations about culture and stereotype, and find common ground.

“Somehow the whole effect is relaxing – a realisation that your way isn’t the only way of doing things.”

But for Kate, as for so many other Taizé pilgrims, the highlight was the worship.

“Three times a day you all come together to pray, sing and hear God’s word in the church.

“The chant may not be in your language but they are simple and you soon pick them up. The singing is beautiful – thousands of voices praising God in four-part harmony. It’s what I imagine heaven sounds like!

“There is always a time of silence incorporated into services in Taizé. I found it a time of profound blessing. Sometimes I prayed for individuals at home; sometimes I just sat and waited on God, and sometimes I fell asleep. But those precious minutes, three times a day, fed me and sustained me.”

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