Taizé in Prison

Regular readers will recall two things. First, that I spent a week at Taizé last summer. Second, one of my most favorite things in the world is singing out at the prison. 

I've told this story before in a few of my books, how in the early days of leading a Bible study at the maximum-security unit here in town, about ten years ago now, we started to pull the hymnals off the shelves to sing old gospel standards during our study each week. "I'll Fly Away." "Leaning On the Everlasting Arms." "Old Rugged Cross." "Poor Wayfaring Stranger." "Amazing Grace." Singing these songs with the inmates each week is my happy place.

Having shared with the men my experience at Taizé, I've gone on to introduce them to Taizé songs. I haven't made copies of the music. I've just sung the melody and the class has improvised the harmonies. They've become very good at this, singing harmony, given all our years singing gospel hymns together. Our Taizé songs are lovely, and have introduced into the world of the prison a haunting, meditative beauty. It gives me chills, quite frankly. It's a profound experience watching beauty transform that space. Beauty is so rare in prison. And how can you be human without beauty? 

I have no idea if we're the only prison in Texas singing Taizé songs, but it can't be a common thing. Regardless, it's a very long way from the idyllic pastoral surroundings of Taizé, France to a maximum-security prison in Texas.

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