WALKING UP the quarter mile from the bus stop -- past stone farmhouses, pastures filled with bleating sheep, vineyards, and a small Romanesque church -- it's easy to feel gloriously immersed in the countryside, to breathe in the wonderful stillness of the hills.
As you enter Taize -- a small village nestled in the hills of France's Burgundy region, where a monastic-styled community of brothers lives together -- the same peacefulness prevails. It is mixed here, though, with the vibrancy of shared lives, work, prayer, and a spirit of searching.
On the surface, there's not much to Taize: a few stark barracks and oversized tents, an institutional-sized kitchen serving the simplest of food, and a plain church that looks, from the outside, more like a gymnasium. Yet the bright murals scattered throughout the common areas, depicting scenes from everyday life in cultures around the world, give a hint of what makes Taize so special.
Every year, thousands of Christians come here -- from all over Europe, as well as from countries as far away as Chile, South Africa, Malaysia, India, and Canada -- on what is termed a "pilgrimage of trust," to search together for the "wellsprings" of their faith. These meetings are structured from Sunday to Sunday, and from March to November Taize is bustling with anywhere from 400 to 4,000 people.