Lancaster Pilgrims returning home

Taizé - tent

The week in Taizé flew by far too quickly, as it tends to do. The end of the week follows a slightly different pattern, particularly in the evening prayer. On Friday the singing continues late into the night during the prayer around the cross. Many pilgrims patiently wait to place their forehead on the wooden cross, which is laid on the floor in the middle of the church.

Each weekend in Taizé loosely follows the pattern of Easter, with the celebration of the resurrection during the Saturday evening prayer. Everyone is given a candle when entering the church, with the flame being passed from person to person during the singing of “Surrexit Christus”.

The Eucharist is celebrated on Sunday morning, using one of Taizé beautiful musical settings. Throughout the liturgy the priest effortlessly switches between a number of different languages in turn, eliciting familiar responses from different sections of the congregation.

Farewells are poignant and often tearful, as young pilgrims realise how close they have become to those with whom they have shared their thoughts, experiences and dreams over the past few days. A new network of friendship spanning Europe and beyond underpins a sense of connectedness, even if the accompanying absence can be keenly felt.

Our journey home has gone very smoothly – arriving in London fully two hours ahead of schedule, to avoid running into road closures for today’s stage of the Tour de France. Since our connections are geared conservatively in case of delays in transport, this gave us rather a long wait for our train. Friends House cafe, opposite Euston station, provided an excellent base to pass the time, with a reasonably priced breakfast, great coffee, a fascinating bookshop and silent worship space. Now we’re on the final stage of our pilgrimage: the train home. There will be more farewells as most of us go our separate ways in Lancaster, while one continues to Edinburgh.

I’m glad to be returning to Taizé in three weeks’ time, with a private group. I have a feeling that some of our group will be back too before long, perhaps with our Holy Week and Easter coach?

Taizé - clean dorms

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