Worship service combines music with chanting

Erin Ghere

A darkened sanctuary greets visitors as a musician begins to play a simple chant by candlelight and worshippers begin chanting as they slip into a “musical meditation.”
The University Episcopal Center offers this experience to the University and metro-area community through its Taize Prayer Service on the third Thursday of each month.
“It’s a spiritual massage,” said the Rev. Janet Wheelock, celebrant at the Episcopal Center.
The service is made up primarily of chants, but a scripture reading and prayers are also included. A piano accompanies the chants as well as a cello and flute at times.
“It gives you a profound sense of spiritual grounding,” Wheelock said.
The worship service is patterned after that of monks in Taize, France, an ecumenical order born in the 1940s to end the divisions between Christians.
Tom Di Nanni, a Twin Cities religion analyst, said the service was “a simple, moving and spiritually renewing religious experience,” in a Star Tribune article on May 30, 1998.
The worshippers are mostly international students and other visitors, Wheelock said.
The service draws about 15 people on average. About half the people who attend regularly are from the general metro area and half from the University community.
The simple chants of the Taize service are spoken in English as well as several other languages.
Wheelock brought the unique worship to the University when she began her position in 1996. She stumbled upon Taize as an international student in Berlin, when a group of students began chanting in a nun’s apartment in a rundown area of the city.
She said it was “moving,” and wanted to offer the same experience when she came to the University Episcopal Center.
The service is open to all people of faith, not just the University’s Episcopal community, Wheelock said.
“People who want to come don’t have to do anything to experience this transcendental spirituality,” Wheelock said.
The service is held on the third Thursday of each month, August through June, at 7:30 p.m. at the University Episcopal Center. For more information, call 331-3552.
Erin Ghere covers University faculty and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217.