Yesterday evening I travelled to St. Andrews in Chandler, AZ to lead a Taize service.
This was the first time I have ever lead music at a Catholic Church - in fact I think I've only ever been to one service at a Catholic Church and that was for a funeral.
I went at the invite of Fr Richard. He is one of the other students on the Hesychia program and is a 'Religious' in the order of the Crosiers.
I was a little apprehensive. I grew up in a church that spoke a lot of prejudice about Catholics. As a child, the first thing that came to mind when I thought of Catholics, was the trouble in Northern Ireland and bombing in London. As I've explored the realm of Contemplative Spirituality I've discovered a deep rich thread of spirituality within the catholic church and have had wonderful sacred conversations with Priests and Nuns.
But here I was, a little Protestant guy, going into 'enemy territory' to lead a very Catholic form of worship at a Catholic Church. Even though the community of Taize is ecumenical - it's worship style is much more prevalent in Catholic Churches than in Protestant. I think it's the Latin!
It was a wonderful experience. I had a group of musicians, 6 singers, a guitarist, a violinist and me on Piano. And we had about 45 minutes to rehearse all the music. It was a tad stressful but the musicians were all excellent so it eased my mind.
I was amazed at how many people showed up. When we do a Taize style service at Chapelwood, we're usually looking at about 40 people, esp. if it's not tied into a specific event on the church calendar. At St. Andrews I know we had over 125 people as we ran out of candles and had to go rummaging for the other batch!
There were a few little differences of religious practice that created a few moments of uncertainty in the congregation, but all in all it was a wonderful reflective service. I had to make some realtime 'course corrections' in the way I had specified we were going to sing certain songs. This was due to the larger number of attendees than I had expected and the length of time it consequently took to light candles or pray at the cross.
In the middle of the service we had 10 minutes of total silent prayer. The silence felt twice as long to me because I was leading. I was ready to bail after 3 minutes, but having experienced the agony of leading silence before I made sure I checked my cellphone to keep track of the time.
I was very much aware by the end of the service that I wasn't on 'Enemy Territory' at all. It was more like visiting in a friend in their home for the first time and being aware that everyone does things slightly differently - though I must confess it was rather amusing seeing people's faces when they discovered I wasn't Catholic. A look of surprise and amusement mostly.
We finished the evening with some awesome Italian food and then some great conversation in the car as we rode back to Tucson - woohoo.