Behute mich, Gott, ich vertraue dir….
No sooner had the Icon workshop ended than we found ourselves queuing up outside the giant white circus tent that would be our home for the next week. I saw a woman carrying a crate of trays up from the kitchen and offered to help; just like that I had a job. Her name was Kathryn and she was from South Korea and I would discover, as we worked, that she had taken a year off to travel the world. She had multiple graduate degrees from Harvard, and had worked in public policy and the non-profit realm in DC before returning home to try to use her gifts in her native land. The men there would have none of it. And so now she travelled and prayed and served, and waited for her next cue. “Do you think you’ll go back to Korea?” I asked as we set out crates of the one and only utensil provided in Taize: a large spoon. “No,” she said, wistfully. “I can’t contribute there.”
Two young female leaders— permanents, like Stephan; likely no more than 20— stood up on a bench outside the tent. “We still need three volunteers for clean-up tonight. Three volunteers.” Well, as anyone could see, I was already busy! “Whoever cleans up gets to go first through the line!” This small incentive coaxed a few people forward and we were onto the next order of business, which seemed to be voting on the grace. Voices shouted out, “Frieden, Frieden…,” “Glucklich sind…,” “Que j’exulte et jubile…,” “Meine Hoffnung….” I didn’t hear a single suggestion in English: what were these songs? Were these local folk songs? The words sounded primarily German. There was a consensus: “Behute mich, Gott.” Everyone started to sing. I couldn’t even hum along— was just starting to catch hold of the tune when it ended and the porcelain-skinned brunette leader cried out,”Bon Appetit!”
I shuffled into the tent somewhat confused and with the slight sting of feeling on the outside. “Where do those blessings come from?” I asked the taller of the two leaders, Anna, a young German girl with cornrows and tribal headbands. “They are all the Taize chants,” she replied. “Have you never heard the music?”
“I’ve heard lots of the music, but in English,” I said as if that should have been my passport to the great songbook of the world.
“Well, you’ll learn,” she smiled and checked off my meal card. I was handed a tray, then a single shallow bowl that doubled as a plate which a man scooped a hearty serving of pasta into. Moving down the line, each server smiled and bid some sort of good wishes for my meal in accent-laden English. There were slices of bread and foil-wrapped pats of butter and little packets of cookies and a lovely peach. I took them all, realizing suddenly that my lunch had been a bag of chips at the bus depot. I began to worry that I would be hungry later. I began to worry that every single song we’d sing all week would be in another language. I began to worry that I didn’t really know anything about this place, or this music, or why God had called me here. I looked over at my aunt who was already deeply engaged in conversation with a English couple close to her age. I turned the other way, put on a friendly face and introduced myself to the man across from me. His accent seemed Germanic. “Did you know that blessing song?” I asked. Sensing my discomfort he patted my hand and smiled. “In English it means: Keep me, O God, for I trust in you. You show me the path of life. With you there is fullness of joy.”