its taken me a week or two to digest my feelings since travelling to France and spending some time with the Taize community. It was a powerful experience, that did far more for me spiritually than I had bargained for.
Effectively, life is centred around 3 sets of daily worship, Morning Eucharist, Midday and evening prayer. These involve meditative chants in a number of languages, punctuated with one long period of silence, prayers and a bible reading. The singing is beautiful, and its easy to get caught up in the sound of 3-4000 people singing together in the minimalist church surroundings.
There is a lovely wooded walkway down to a lake and waterfall which is open during the day, and signs encourage all who visit to do so in silence, in fact many take up the chance to do the whole week in silence, or perhaps just the last 4 days.
The atmosphere created by the mixture of worship, silence, and the sight of so many young people from around the world playing, talking and listening to each other is totally awe inspiring, and needs to be experienced to be believed.
On the whole it offers people an authentic understanding of what Christian life can be; engaged with the world, yet offering something different, something heavenly.
It has some flaws - it feels quite Catholic for an 'ecumenical' retreat, and the division of male and female roles is questionable. However, there is a progressive feel, and problems are discussed openly an fairly.
The only trouble with Taize, is that it is hard to replicate the intensity of the experience outside of the place itself. We will all be disappointed with the pale imitations in our local churches. The radical communitarianism, the laughter, the sharing of food and tasks, the deep biblical discussion and the challenge to capitalism that Taize represents are in short supply in our normal parish life