Over a period of more than 20 years, Rev. Wilma Jakobsen and Rev. Edwin Arrison have been identifying young people in South Africa to spend a three month internship at the Taizé community in France (www.taize.fr/en).
John de Gruchy is probably the first South African to have visited Taizé in France. In 1980, Bishop Tutu sent a 144 young South Africans on a pilgrimage to Taizé. Steve de Gruchy is said to have found his calling there.
Volmoed visit by Brother Alois, the prior of the Taizé Community
God’s first language
The Taizé style of worship has been incorporated into the life of VYLTP. Silence is something that some young people find difficult, but it is a necessary part of learning “God’s first language”.
Volmoed Youth sent to Taizé
After the 2016 VYLTP cohort completed their course, David Daniels and Thabo Meslane were selected to intern at the Taizé community.
In 2017, Ntombekhaya Sibene and Amanda Mahlanyana were selected, as well as Richard Dlamini of Swaziland and in 2018, the first two Northern Cape delegates for this internship, Christofel Kenneth and Anna Mukhotsoane, were selected. Young people from Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana and Zimbabwe have also been sent to Taizé as a result of their link with VYLTP staff.
My Taizé experience
“My stay in Taizé was so great that I wanted to stay there. With my arrival at 10 o’clock at night the boys of the house were awake and greeted me with such a warm welcome.
My first few weeks were kind of confusing for me: I did not know what was what, or how it worked and also even thought that what happened there was not what I believe I was sent for. But as time progressed I came to find that the stuff I learned on the VYLTP program theoretically I was learning it by living it:
The community life, creation and creativity, healing and wholeness, reconciliation and justice and peace.
Getting used to a full daily routine gets one to quickly learn to be disciplined. Before being exposed to such a routined life I always thought any kind of routine that’s too consistent is boring, but actually when being exposed to routine gave me a better perspective on life and how routine is the best way of changing yourself.
I always had a dream to travel the world and see people from all over and have some memories. In Taizé that dream came to life, having people from all over the world in one place, even one table. Having a meal with them was amazing. I even shed a tear over it. Now I can call them all friends.
Taizé is a place of trust and so at Taizé the doors are not locked, which for me, being from South Africa, is not normal. So I never slept the first two weeks, but after the two weeks I’ve gotten to quickly relax…
And the trust part just grew on me …
Mainly because of the love and kindness of the people staying and visiting there. They have this kind of love, kindness and trust that I dreamed of seeing here among our people.
The Taizé focus or aim is simplicity and hospitality: living down to earth. For the first time I could be where no one says anything about your clothing – color, brand or label does not matter.
Meals together were heartwarming because we never do this in my family – no television, nothing – just the company of your fellow brother (living a life of attention to one another) no phones and stuff – wow, amazing.
You also have a contact person there and mine happened to be Brother Norbert. You meet everyday with your contact brother for an hour or so and you just talk whatever comes to mind, whether your experience or stuff you always wanted to know, sports anything at all or even just being silent with him was helpful.
I believe that I have matured so much during my stay in Taizé : the way I handled situations when first arriving there, to how I handled them during my last few weeks. Having had to face racist comments I rather tried to understand them before judging or being defensive. Even stuff I did not like, I understood, and as Br. Norbert said, that’s a sign of maturity.
I also understood that life is not about you, you don’t have to be the centre at all time.”
More articles on the relationship between the Taizé community and South Africa: