Simon Barber, Principal at Manor CE Academy shares the experience of Taize...
I have just completed my second visit to Taize and once again I have been in awe of the impact this place has on the young people who pilgrimage here.
This year was different to my first visit, in fact Brother Paolo warned us of the difficulty that some have here on their second visit when they expect a repeat of their first.
This year we camped and that was brilliant! Having a camp just for our school and organising the tents in a circle to create our own space was really good and enabled us to have regular meetings together and have a place to relax and hang out.
There were a lot more people in Taize this week too, around 3,500 young people and a further 1000 adults. This meant the church was almost completely full for every service which was amazing during the periods of silence and song. Having so many people worship together is such a Taize experience! So are the queues for the food, but they move amazingly quickly.
But the transformational impact Taize has on young people is the same. They come often with reservation and worry but very quickly fit in with the rhythm of life here. A rhythm that includes worship, silence and reflection but also includes meeting, laughing and living life to the full with young people the same age from countries all over the world. Many of our students are already declaring this pilgrimage the favourite thing they have ever done at school. High praise!
This is what Hannah wrote in her journal: "Taize has made me realise who I am and what my faith is...Talking about my faith for me is hard but Taize has made me see that my faith really matters...Everybody I have spoken to has so much positive energy to share about God"
That's Taize in a nutshell I think. A special unique place where life is different and quite wonderful.