Together - Gathering of the People of God

06 October 2023

A group of young people from the Methodist Church in Britain travelled to Rome at the end of September, joining thousands of others from across Europe for a weekend of prayer, learning and service. 

Together - Gathering of the People of God was initiated by Pope Francis and organised by the Taizé Community in Rome, with young people aged 18 to 35 invited from Christian Churches, communities and organisations to the weekend of sharing that took place from Friday 29 September through to Sunday 1 October 2023.

Perso (lost) in Rome by Trish Earlam

I often get lost. It is a running joke between family and friends. So much so that when given the amazing opportunity to join the Methodist Church group of young adults travelling to Rome for Together - Gathering of the People of God, I was quite anxious.

Rome is a very big city to navigate. Rather than venture on my own to the host parish where I was staying, I waited for another member of the group to arrive and so, together, we picked our way across Rome.

Rome was busy and bustling and bursting with colourful buildings and shuttered windows. It was also very hot compared to Manchester’s early morning chill.

Over the weekend we travelled a lot and we entered so many building’s that I found myself lost again and again, but this time in pure wonder. I was lost in the building’s grandeur, the history around every corner but, most of all, in the silence that fell over St Peter Square when we gathered on the Saturday, the only sound being the fountains.  I often get lost; but if I am lost in the wonder of what is around me, then that is a good thing.

I have not experienced Taizé worship before – the closest I have been was an introduction to different music styles during my local preachers training, and then it was in English. Over the weekend we worshiped in so many ways, firstly in our host parish where those who were part of the parish guest group, ten from the UK, two from Spain and one from Germany, were encouraged to participate by reading from a worship sheet.

It was candle lit and gentle. Together the languages blended, and we joined in with the new Taizé song written for the weekend “Adsumus Sancte Spiritus” (We stand before you, Holy Spirit.)

By contrast, Saturday’s worship at the Basilica of St John Lateran was very different. One of our group, Eli, a current global youth rep, had been one of those preparing this. It was lively and the main body of the Basilica rang with singing and the excitement of the many 18-35 year olds who had been invited (along with their leaders) before our walk to St Peters Square for the prayer vigil.

We were encouraged to get to know and pray for those around us, and so we prayed with the Polish group in front of us and shared the peace with those behind.

Worship at St Peters Square was another contrast. As the crowds gathered, filling every corner, singing the Taizé choruses, we watched and listened to the Pope give his address, and sat in the silence.

Our final worship of the trip was the Mass at our host parish where, again, we were invited to write a short prayer to share, and the Taizé songs, now becoming familiar, were used again.

One of our Spanish group members helpfully found an order of service so we could follow those parts that we were unfamiliar with. Together we worshiped and watched as sacrament was given. For me, I felt very moved and close to God. I was thankful to have the opportunity to lead part of a prayer of thanks with a congregation in Rome, and took the opportunity to try in Italian before the English.   

I often get lost; but if I am lost in worship, even if it is in another language, and I can feel Gods presence, then it is a good thing.

Throughout the weekend we lived with host families. This gave us an insight to life in Rome. Some families spoke English well, while others spoke none at all, we muddled through using our hands, Spanish, French and sometimes our phones for translations. We shared food and stories, hobbies and found similarities within the differences. I will be staying in touch with our wonderful host Gabbriella.

We met each another as a Parish Group, as a Methodist Group, and we were hosted by Rev. Matthew Lafferty the Executive Director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office in Rome for two evening meals. There was a wonderful sense of unity and inclusion throughout the whole weekend. I often get lost but if I am lost in togetherness with people from all backgrounds, denominations, and cultures then this is a good thing.

When thinking about what I shall pass on to the young people I work with, the congregations I preach to and the ecumenical partners I gather with, I shall tell them that this trip has taught me rather than fearing being lost in the differences, I should be lost more often in wonder, worship, and togetherness.