By Nem Tomlinson
I’ve been going through old things in the evenings; clothes, paperwork, letters and diaries. Trying to sort things out into piles of keep, recycle or give away. There’s nothing like a global pandemic and a lock down to spark some kind of Mary Kundo clear out. This, as people who know me well will attest, is not like me. A sign of unusual times.
About 6 weeks ago I returned from a meeting. A significant portion of our time was spent considering and making plans for Covid-19. I came home from those 3 days away to find myself telling my Community that we would be closing our café and day activities; that we would need to engage in social distancing and ask our team of assistants to drastically reduce their lives to focus on the people they live with. …
Fred joined L’Arche Bognor more than forty years ago, having spent most of his early life in an institution for people with learning disabilities. At L’Arche, Fred found freedom, friendship and his forever home. As one of the founding core members, he has helped the Community to grow into a welcoming place for people with learning disabilities and their assistants.
It isn’t only people with learning disabilities who find meaning and acceptance at L’Arche. James is a L’Arche Bognor House Leader who lives alongside Fred and other core members, and has experienced the gift of relationships.
“Relationships are the centre of life. If we have something living at the centre of our lives - other people - then our lives are living. If we put objects - dead things - at the centre of our lives, then our lives become deadened. …
By Lucille Kennedy
One November, about five years ago, the L’Arche Community in Preston were taking part in a retreat in daily life. To start the week, we gathered together to pray. Tim, a member of the Community who society labels as having a learning disability, was playing the part of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar in our own dramatised version of the blind man of Jericho.
Tim was excellent and when it came to the part of the story where Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus, I was part of the crowd who tells him to be quiet and tries to silence him. …
We were in a café together, eating falafel burgers, when Eleanor just came out and asked me: “Would you like to be a mum, Amy?” Her question disarmed me. I had a mouthful of burger and ketchup was dripping out of the bottom of the bun. By the time I’d wiped my mouth and felt able to answer, Eleanor had already moved on. She was talking about the ketchup and asking me what falafel was, and her curiosity about me being a mum had dissipated. …
By Rupert Greville
Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.(Psalm 103 vv 1–6)
A little over two weeks ago, I read the sad news that Jean Vanier had died. I was on sick leave, which gave me time to think about his life and work, and to reflect on his impact and that of L’Arche, on my own life. …
By Amy Merone
‘We talk about who God is and I give the answer: God is in the heart.’ It is Sunday afternoon and I am having the best kind of experience of church. I’m sat in the empty dining room of the L’Arche Asansol Community with Rahul, a young man with a learning disability, and I am enjoying what feels like a rallying, call to action, kind of sermon.
Rahul is a kind, thoughtful, young man. He is honest, searingly so at times. ‘I like to dance,’ he tells me. …
Joe Ulleri was a much-loved core member in L’Arche Manchester. His death, three years ago, attracted national media interest last week when a jury inquest ruled that failures in his care, while in hospital, constituted neglect, which contributed to his death. In this reflective piece, Nem Tomlinson from L’Arche Manchester shares her memories and stories of Joe.
By Nem Tomlinson.
A lot has been written about Joe in the last couple of weeks. Those articles are important. They tell the story of a needless death, and a system that is fragmented and too complex to navigate. I want justice for Joe and I want hospitals to be safe places for people who are vulnerable. Joe’s death was unnecessary and the manner in which he died makes me both utterly bereft and furious. …
By Amy Merone
Adi Bari is an old house. In fact, Adi Bari means ‘old house.’ As such, it holds and tells old stories. Stories like the time Madhu, a core member, received communion from Pope John Paul II, or the story of how when Patna arrived in the Community in 1984 the only thing he said was Patna, the name of a city in India, which is how he came to be named Patna.
In Thakur Bari they tell stories, too. Mantu tells about visiting the L’Arche Community in Trosly in France and how, no, being on an aeroplane did not scare him. Tridib, a live-in assistant, talks about the time he scolded his arm and Neelchand, a core member, bathed it for him every night until it healed. …
By Charlotte Overton-Hart
Guest writer, Charlotte Overton-Hart, is a friend to L’Arche and runs a social enterprise called Story Chaplain, encouraging moments of connection for people living with dementia. In this piece she reflects on the resonance between Jean Vanier’s writing on belonging and presence, and her own experiences spending time with people who are living with dementia.
Some of the most meaningful moments of my life have been shared with people who don’t remember me. And I don’t mind at all. Over the years I have come to realise that the ability to remember is in no way an index of in-the-moment connection. Reciting half-lines of poems, singing snatches of Amazing Grace on a loop, or watching blossom fall from a cherry tree, every moment has the potential to become a stand alone ‘storying moment’, precious in its own right. …
By Marilyn Hull
By the hungry I will feed you,
By the poor I’ll make you rich,
By the broken I will mend you.
Tell me, which one is which.
The words of this Sydney Carter song, which is a favourite in Rainbow House, capture for me the spirit and the question that is at the heart of L’Arche.
I came to L’Arche Kent for six months last year during a difficult period of transition in my life. I had been widowed three years earlier. …