Category Archives: L’Arche

1 January: Praying with Pope Francis – Human Fraternity

Since the First Friday of January is New Year’s Day, we open this year’s reflections with Pope Francis’s Intention for Evangelization:

Human Fraternity
May the Lord give us the grace to live in full fellowship with our brothers and sisters of other religions, praying for one another, open to all.

We will continue to offer occasional reflections from people of different faiths or of no faith, but often a picture can say a thousand words. L’Arche in Syria and around the World includes Muslim and Christian, and people of different abilities and needs, coming together to bear living witness to human fraternity. God is patient, he takes his time to lead us home. Let’s pray for patience with each other that we may recognise the sister or brother in our neighbour. Not a bad New Year’s resolution; there’ll still be plenty to work on in 12 months’ time.

WT

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Filed under Advent and Christmas, Daily Reflections, Justice and Peace, L'Arche, PLaces

6 December: Ho, ho, No!

manc.santa

I was warned about Manchester’s 2019 Santa well before I saw it. Now it’s difficult to unsee the thing. As a representation of a saintly bishop it leaves a lot to be desired! The little Kentish village of Barfrestone has a better one.barf.4.st.nicholas

Here he is, recognisably a bishop, recognisably blessing his people (I doubt the Mancunian’s gesture could be so interpreted), with symbols of his generous charity: the three gold coins for the dowries he gave to three girls who might otherwise have been enslaved; the little boys he rescued from drowning, and a representation of the little church of Saint Nicholas.

We in L’Arche Kent called by during our community pilgrimage last year, for it was in this village that the community was born more than 40 years ago. I was on a sort of pilgrimage to Manchester, not to tip my hat to Santa by Piccadilly Gardens but to visit my mother and my daughter; two good reasons for the journey on a murky day in Manchester. Since my daughter has left town there’s only my mother, but she is isolating herself and outsiders are meant to keep away from Greater Manchester. So thank God for the internet!

Today, 6 December, is Saint Nicholas’ feast day. We can’t do much about the hijacking he has been subjected to by the forces of Mammon, but we can find ways to be generous, maybe in secret, as he often was.

And let us use this season of Advent to make straight the paths of the Lord, through marshland, mountain, or Mancunian murk!

Merry Christmas Manchester!

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13 November: Should Stevenson ever have been born?

This follows on from Robert Browning’s courting of Elizabeth Barrett, an invalid likely to produce an invalid child. On the other hand, had there been testing for potential diseases and disabilities, would – should – Robert Louis Stevenson have been allowed to live? Chesterton knew his answer. (RLS was born this day in 1850)

What is the good of telling people that if they marry for love, they may be punished by being the parents of Keats or the parents of Stevenson? Keats died young; but he had more pleasure in a minute than a Eugenist gets in a month. Stevenson had lung-trouble; and it may, for all I know, have been perceptible to the Eugenic eye even a generation before. But who would perform that illegal operation: the stopping of Stevenson?

Intercepting a letter bursting with good news, confiscating a hamper full of presents and prizes, pouring torrents of intoxicating wine into the sea, all this is a faint approximation for the Eugenic inaction of the ancestors of Stevenson. This, however, is not the essential point; with Stevenson it is not merely a case of the pleasure we get, but of the pleasure he got. If he had died without writing a line, he would have had more red-hot joy than is given to most men. Shall I say of him, to whom I owe so much, let the day perish wherein he was born? Shall I pray that the stars of the twilight thereof be dark and it be not numbered among the days of the year, because it shut not up the doors of his mother’s womb? I respectfully decline; like Job, I will put my hand upon my mouth.

from “Eugenics and Other Evils” by Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

GKC took the writers Keats and Stevenson as examples of the unhealthy humans that the Eugenicists of his day would have aborted but it was illegal. As for today … I only have to think of our bridesmaids, now departed, who lived a full life with Down’s syndrome, to know how wrong it would have been to prevent their birth; and also the men who were locked away in ‘subnormality hospitals’, yet came out and contributed greatly to the founding of L’Arche Kent.

Stevenson, author of Treasure Island and much more, after years of illness and travelling to find a cure for his lung condition, died in Samoa aged 44 in 1894, where he was buried with this epitaph:

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
 the hunter home from the hill.

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Zooming All Souls

St Nicholas holding his church at Barefrestone, first home of L’Arche Kent.

We in L’Arche Kent zoomed our All Souls’ Remembrance Service. With my internet connection on the blink, I was not present for it all, but the stories I heard of people I had known and lived with, as well as those who had joined the community when I was less involved, were moving.

I was moved to smiles and laughter, but after my connection declined one last time, I was left feeling outraged but not with my net provider. My connection was restored by the evening and a new hub is on its way. No, it was the way so many of my friends had been treated before I met them.

Many people born with epilepsy or a learning disability were, before and after the Second World War, locked away in rural hospitals or asylums, sometimes housing 1,000 or more. Drugs to control seizures were not available, so people were herded away from society, ‘it’s better for them’, their parent were told.

Time and again this morning we heard how people had blossomed on leaving ‘care’. I had seen and worked in such places and saw how dehumanising they were. Not even personal clothing, but heavy duty corduroy trousers and jackets, twill denim shirts, navy blue jumpers, all rough from being washed on the highest setting in industrial machines. Ablutions in troughs with cold water. Many by then on modern drugs, as much to control behaviour as seizures.

One young man with Downs turned out to be a gifted, self-taught-by-ear pianist, learning on a ward instrument. He was used to raise charitable funds but remained on the ward. An elderly man had disappeared for three days, a cause of panic as the countryside was searched in vain. He had been sitting in front of a foxes’ lair, watching the cubs at play; the animals accepted his presence. I was not the only member of staff who wondered why he was in the asylum.

Neither of these men joined L’Arche Kent, but the men and women who came brought their own gifts that had been buried for 20, 30, or more years. Artistic talent, gardening, hard work, sense of humour, dress sense, loyalty, persistence, sensitivity, loving care, faith.

L’Arche and other organisations allow people with disabilities to flourish within society and within the church – I won’t say churches, distinctions between us blur into the background with L’Arche. But if an unborn baby is found to have Downs Syndrome, doctors will recommend abortion and the same for any other perceived disability. How many people are dismissed as not quite human in 2020? Migrants for a start? What do we do about it?

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Filed under Autumn, Christian Unity, L'Arche, PLaces

The art of the city

smart

As part of the Canterbury Festival, much pruned down this year, L’Arche Kent and others have produced an art trail or pilgrimage across the city. I’ve captured a few of the pictures, but the some of the photos are beset with reflections; if I’d used the flash it would have bounced off the windows, hiding the pictures, so here the windows are, mostly taken on a wet day.

Are we inside looking out, or outside looking in? The reflection makes a different picture to what the artists intended!

More from L’Arche Kent’s Rainbow artists, and in the next picture.

Support for the National Health Service staff with the rainbows here.

A window with a message, linked to the next, which showcases some recycled clothes. I saw the artist assembling this exhibit; he seemed to be enjoying herself and doubtless enjoyed the making of the party outfits. The arch is a ghost image from across the street.

People’s experience of being locked down. Have a good read!

Catching Lives is a local organisation for people who are homeless.

Finally the front window of L’Arche Kent itself at the Saint Radigund’s Street Office! A show of talent.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little autumn pilgrimage across Canterbury. Do keep L’Arche, Catching Lives and all struggling artists in your prayers.

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Filed under Autumn, corona virus, Interruptions, L'Arche, PLaces

1 October, Season of Creation III: Forty Years On.

Logo of the International Year of Disabled Persons 1981

1981; not all readers will remember it, but we called it IYDP, the United Nations’ Year of Disabled Persons. It came to mind the other day when we saw workers making dropped kerbs to allow wheelchair users – and of course pram pushers – to cross the road more easily. We had campaigned for these forty years ago. That’s progress!

It’s surely part of our work as co-creators of God’s world to ensure that every human being is able to be fully part of the family of humanity, the family of God. So this post is appropriate in this season.

The UN Enable web page says that the theme of IYDP was “full participation and equality”, defined as the right of persons with disabilities to take part fully in the life and development of their societies, enjoy living conditions equal to those of other citizens, and have an equal share in improved conditions resulting from socio-economic development.

Christian churches should be showing the way forward, and indeed there has been progress. Buildings with steps were once the norm, if only to keep the mud at bay, but even sensitive old places like Canterbury Cathedral have been able to address the access problems successfully.

BUT ARE WE OPEN ENOUGH? I was pleased to see recently the Parish Guide to Disability published by the Catholic Disability Fellowship who advise the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales. They adapted a pamphlet of the Office of Ministry with People with Disabilities, Diocese of
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania USA, updating it for British use.

While I have to say that most of what the Guide says we were saying back in the 1980s, it is all worth repeating. And I hope never to hear again of priests refusing sacraments or catechesis to persons with disabilities. What is encouraging is the emphasis on the mission of every Christian to witness to faith: the first page cites Pope Francis:

The people of God: “A living community, one that supports, accompanies,
integrates and enriches. Never separated, but united, where everyone
learns to be a sign and blessing of God for others.”

Pope Francis (Bulgaria – May 6, 2019)

The Guide will help this to happen; the checklist at the end is a valuable tool that summarises the aims and policies described, and enables communities to discern what’s going well, where improvements are possible, and where they need help to grow. Every parish could do better; this Guide will help – if it is read and shared. Find it here.

Maurice Billingsley, sometime Chair, 81 Group for Disabled People in the Church.

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29 September: Creation Season I, Our Stour

The Stour is the river that flows through Canterbury in different channels, including this one, from which L’Arche Kent draws the water for its garden project. When I looked at the photo on a large screen I almost discarded it as it shows more of the flats opposite than the river. But the river is healthy, as the weed shows, and this is confirmed by a survey a friend took part in, counting the different micro-organisms at various sites along the river.

It was not always that way. In the 19th Century Ashford’s sewage went into the river, not good for Canterbury or the schools built near the river (in those days, going downstream, St Mary’s, St Thomas’, and St Peter’s). But Canterbury tossed in sewage as well, and worse: opposite us here, where the flats now are, was the tannery, source of industrial pollution.

That has gone, the river is clean enough for trout and eels to thrive; we’ve seen both on this stretch. This would not have happened without dedicated and focused hard work, continuing to this day with the Our Stour project.

One way to help is to use water wisely; Our Stour provide some good advice for gardeners. This is part of our responsibility as stewards of creation, something to consider in this season of Creation proclaimed by Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis.

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Working hard in the garden

The worker bees are enjoying the sunflowers, and they don’t mind a long day in the sun. They have more stamina for the heat than I do. Come the winter, when many of these workers will die, my friend P will hang out the sunflower seed heads for the birds. As always, P’s sunflowers are taller than mine by a good metre!

Let us hope and pray that restrictions can soon be lifted and remain lifted on getting together to work the garden and share many activities that are still socially distanced and carried out wearing masks.

And let’s continue to look and see and hear and listen to what is going on around us. And Laudato si’!

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Filed under Interruptions, L'Arche, Laudato si', Summer, winter

4 July, Going viral XLII: Good Neighbours with Rev Jo.

Good morning all, and hope all well, as we are here, and another month has past us by.
We have had guidance re opening our churches for worship, and will let you know when we have in mind, once discussed with PCC’s.
 One of the joys of recent months has been getting to know our neighbours, and I know that has been experienced by many up and down the country – that sense of neighbourliness. Looking back it was the Thursday night clap, along with the VE Day tea parties that certainly for us, was a real chance of stopping and talking to those who live next door, and I am sure that echoes with many of you. People whom we may have just walked briskly past, now stop for a conversation – the smile, or acknowledgement, that sense of feeling as though I belong here. Something Bishop Rose spoke about on Sunday in her sermon (available of our YouTube channel if you haven’t yet had the chance to listen). She encourages us to welcome all, and not look the other way. To be that welcome, as Jesus welcomed all. Love your neighbour as yourself (Mark 12:31)
I may have mentioned previously in my briefings that all three of our churches recently registered as Inclusive Churches, that means: “We believe in inclusive Church – a church which celebrates and affirms every person and does not discriminate. We will continue to challenge the church where it continues to discriminate against people on grounds of disability, economic power, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, learning disability, mental health, neurodiversity, or sexuality. We believe in a Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.”    If you want to know more: https://www.inclusive-church.org/ This has been supported by both our PCC’s, and we were looking to take this forward more this year – so if you are interested in working with this initiative, please do let me know.* In the meantime, have a good day, and continue to keep well, keep praying and keep connected.

Bless Jo 🙏🙏🙏

  • I must bear witness that L’Arche with its people with learning disabilities has been made welcome at all three of Rev Jo’s churches, St Mildred’s especially, where Friday morning tea and cakes were a regular treat for the gardeners, and one we look forward to again when people are no longer shielding. MMB.

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20 June: A walk around Fredville Park and Barfrestone.

On the occasion of our Ruby Wedding, Mrs Turnstone and I took a walk around the country park belonging to Fredville House. This is still working farmland, but the trees have been planted over the last 300 years and more to create a pleasing classical landscape. Our walk took us through the park and back in by one of the gatekeeper’s lodges, then returning to the park and out by another lodge. We were now in Frogham with its redbrick cottages, but we pressed on along a short stretch of the North Downs Way, past the new, far from lowly cattle shed and into the village of Barfrestone. We caught a glimpse through the hedge of the house where we met, the Old Rectory, then visited the graves of L’Arche friends, and into the old churchyard, admiring one stone in particular, noticing the gardener and St Thomas over the door of the ancient church of Saint Nicholas. After a picnic on the grass, one last look at the rectory, and home to Canterbury.

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