For the past five years, the Rev. Cyndi Gavin has led the congregation at St. John United Church of Christ through fiscally challenging waters.
As the church, 309 Fifth St., downtown Aurora struggles to keep its doors open, Gavin keeps moving forward by bringing a new service of prayer to the Fox Valley, in the spirit of Taizé.
Taizé is a village in eastern France, which in 1940 became the home of an ecumenical community of brothers who came together in a commitment of prayer and worship under the direction of Brother Roger Schutz. Brother Schutz, a Swiss-born theologian, wanted to start a community based on Christ and the Gospel with a belief "that there were too many words in Christianity and that people need to see visible signs."
Historically, the Taizé community also has worked for reconciliation among Christians split apart into different denominations.
Taizé themes of trust, reconciliation and freedom became the anchors in the hourlong service in Aurora. The meditative, candlelight service includes serene, repetitive chants, songs, prayers of praise and intercession.
"Beginning on Feb 26, our first collaborative ecumenical service using Taizé songs was held at St. John's and then in the past month there have been two, one at St. Peter's in Aurora, and one at St. Anne's in Oswego," Gavin said. "While the songs are especially important, the environment is also incredibly important to the Taizé experience."
"Following the reading of scripture is a 10-minute period of contemplative silence during which participants are invited to offer their own silent prayers or to simply sit quiet and listen," she said.
Lou and Eileen Parker composed the music, an integral part of the Taizé service by an ad hoc group of choir members and musicians.
"When the choir intoned the first song at the February rehearsal, I was overcome with emotion and knew we were doing the right thing. The service is gentle, beautiful and totally prayerful," Lou Parker said.
Garvin looks forward to the "Pilgrimage of Trust on Earth" for those ages 18 to 35, which will be an international Taizé gathering of young adults at DePaul University's Lincoln Park Campus over Memorial Day weekend. Francis Cardinal George, archbishop of Chicago, and other Christian faith leaders are scheduled to attend the evening prayer service at 8 p.m. May 26 in DePaul's Sullivan Athletic Center. People of all ages and faiths are welcome to attend any of the 8 p.m. prayer services in the athletic center on May 25, 26, 27.