Tag Archives: L’Arche

Book Review: Hopeful Eddie is looking ahead

Many readers of this blog will recognise the name Eddie Gilmore. We’ve shared a number of his blog posts for the London Irish chaplaincy and it’s good to have a selection of them gathered together in this book, Looking Ahead with Hope.

It’s a teasing title. No human can look ahead without looking back; try it sometime. The important thing is to believe that we – and more to the point, God – can build on the past. If that’s going to happen we need to get down to the bedrock of grace at work in our lives.

That grace often manifests itself in Eddie’s life in the form of music: singing at his mother’s 90th birthday party or a L’Arche retreat in the French Alps – Eddie was with L’Arche before joining the chaplaincy, the lack of singing as church congregations returned as covid retreated.

Eddie revisits those lock-down days, learning to live with people for 24 hours a day, long walks with family members, open-air conversations with passing acquaintances, the pluses and minuses of communicating by Zoom. We got through, but looking ahead, what have we learnt?

There could have been no singing and no party for his mum’s birthday in lockdown time, which put a stop to many of the chaplaincy’s ministries. Music was important in prison ministries too. The old, well-known songs awoke something in the hearts of the captive audience members, giving hope of another life outside prison. Special food on days the chaplaincy team were able to gather people together: it was in HMP Chelmsford that Eddie learnt to enjoy bacon cabbage and potatoes! There, too, Eddie reflected, that ‘for a couple of hours we’d been fellow human beings, enjoying good food and music, and one another’s company.’ And the musicians were changed by the experience (p73).

This book will inspire you to look ahead with hope, because Eddie Gilmore knows how to look back in gratitude. A Christmas present that somebody you know will be grateful for.

Will Turnstone.

Looking Ahead with Hope, Eddie Gilmore, DLT, £9.99. See the DLT site, where there was a good discount offer as we went to press.

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6 December: An Advent Message from Paul at L’Arche.

Raindrops at L’Arche Kent, November 2022.

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Dear Janet & Maurice 

I’m Paul, the Chair of the National Speaking Council in L’Arche, where I make sure people with learning disabilities get to say what they want. This Advent I’d like to share my message with you.

I like to do stuff. In Brecon, I make candles with Beacons Creative, I have a gardening job, mowing the lawns and planting, and I work in L’Arche’s Rebound Books workshop.

When I was in my twenties, I was in care homes. I was lonely and unhappy. I just sat on a chair like everyone else, watching TV, smoking like a trooper. If L’Arche wasn’t there, I’d either be in hospital or some other kind of care home today. I’ll be sharing my story later in Advent. Donate now L’Arche costs money. We need buildings for workshops and for people to live in, with gardens to look after and perhaps a little garage. We need to pay people. And we need to pay for get-togethers and parties, where we can meet our friends and have a laugh and a disco.

In L’Arche, everyone makes each other happy and cheery and safe. But we don’t have much money and we would like people to donate, to keep L’Arche going and make everyone happy. Would you give us a little donation?

Happy Christmas and have a happy new year.Paul Jones
L’Arche Brecon Member and Chair of the National Speaking Council Donate now Social care is going through a crisis of funding and vision. We want L’Arche to be a beacon for brilliant care and life-giving community in Britain, supporting hundreds more people like Paul. But we cannot do it without your support. Please give a gift to L’Arche this Advent.
Copyright  2022 L’Arche UK, All rights reserved.
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Our mailing address is:
L’Arche UK6 Barlow Moor Road
Manchester, Man M20 6TRUnited Kingdom

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2 December 2022, Praying with Pope Francis: for voluntary organisations.

L’Arche UK entering Canterbury Cathedral on pilgrimage together.

We pray that volunteer non-profit organisations

committed to human development

find people dedicated to the common good

and ceaselessly seek out new paths to international cooperation.

Finding people dedicated to the common good has been difficult when covid got in the way of daily life. In L’Arche UK there was much less international cooperation in the form of young assistants coming from overseas for a year or so. But there was also a mass of protective legislation that severely restricted community life for many months. Imagine assistants having to wear masks all day, unable to eat together with core members, friends from different houses being barred from meeting in person.

Pope Francis’s intention was written more than a year ago; things have changed in that time! We in L’Arche should pray in thanks for all the imaginative ways in which people held the community together, and for the opening up that is now happening, including individual and house holidays.

Let us pray that all the people dedicated to the common good, many of them exhausted, may now have space to pause for a while on holiday or retreat.

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16 September: A Warm Winnipeg Welcome

From Wikipedia

 

Our daughter invited us to the open air theatre to watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As always, the players found new angles in the text that had not occurred to me. But as the bats flickered overhead, I was transported back to 1977, the year Elvis died, the year of ‘A Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille’, and my summer in L’Arche Edmonton. Hold on! You were watching Bottom, Titania and all the mixed up parties in the woods of Athens! But there were bats at an open air play in Canada, too.

I’d arrived in Ontario, visiting former L’Arche Kent assistants, but was now taking the Greyhound bus across Canada to Alberta. After riding past Lake Superior and the start of the prairies, I was in Winnipeg, tired and dirty and very hungry. This was before we had international debit cards so my money was in traveller’s cheques which I could not exchange as the banks were closed. After setting aside the coins for a phone call I had less than a dollar to spare.

‘Hi Maurice, we didn’t know what time to expect you! Just stay there by the bus station, we’re all coming into town to watch Fiddler on the Roof.’ I was still hungry, but had just enough cash to buy the cheapest dish on the restaurant window menu – the chef’s salad. It was a good bowlful but did not convert me to veganism!

L’Arche Winnipeg and I found each other. I was taken into the arms of the community at once; tiredness disappeared in the drama of the show. I regretted not being able to stay longer but I had time to visit the farm and help harvest the first sweetcorn, the sweetest I ever tasted.

Maize growing.

I heard a few people’s stories before leaving for Edmonton. To an Englishman the name Portage la Prairie suggested early voyageurs making their way through uncharted lakes, but it had a big hospital like those that our founders came from. Read two L’Arche Winnipeg stories here. 

It was good to see L’Arche growing in an environment completely different to rural Kent, and to be treated like ‘one of us’. And it’s good to see from their website that the community is still active and contributing to their neighbourhood. 

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31 August: A moment with … Tim Hollis by Maurice Billingsley

River Waveney and boats at Beccles, By David Medcalf.

The challenge was to describe a moment spent with another L’Arche community member, and it was issued days after news of Tim Hollis’s death, so this is what came to mind. Tim’s funeral is today, 31 August. MB.

We got to know Tim and Marion Hollis quite well in those early days of L’Arche; they were almost part of the furniture, they came so often. It was good to witness how greatly they respected every core member and assistant, an example to us all. When we went on pilgrimage to Walsingham, they welcomed us to their home in Beccles, with its little oratory in the attic, lit by a custom-made glass roofing tile.

Two or three years after leaving L’Arche I was working in a London adult training centre and was asked to accompany  a small group on holiday quite close to Beccles, so I wrote to ask if we might visit Tim and Marion; of course a warm welcome was extended.

After tea and visiting the oratory, Tim invited us for a voyage on the River Waveney, the southern end of the Norfolk Broads. Tim, Geoffrey Morgan and Jean had been in the Royal Navy together, and Tim now had his own boat, big enough to take us all.

Everyone was comfortably enjoying the trip when Tim asked the student beside him, ‘Mervyn, would you like to steer?’ Mervyn proudly took the wheel and soon grasped how to use landmarks to steer by. Everyone else got a turn, even Maurice.

I expected Tim to be wary of Eric, who spent all day head bent, looking down. Could he possibly steer a boat with eight people on board? Tim felt my tension, but said simply, ‘watch’. I watched. Eric stood at the wheel, hardly raising his head, but plying the course that Tim set him. Eric did not have the speech to say how he felt, but the pleasure and recognition he experienced were palpable.

That moment has informed so much of my work with people with learning and behaviour difficulties: so often they are not trusted and respected, even by those entrusted with their care, education and well-being.

It’s a bit late to tell Tim how much that one moment means to me still, but never too late to share such good news. Thank you Tim, and thank you, Eric.

God Bless,

Maurice.

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26 August: L’Arche pilgrimage II; you have something

L’Arche on pilgrimage to Canterbury.

A friend of L’Arche underlines the qualities of life shared in community rather than in a relationship of caring versus being cared for.

“I promise you, you have something….
“The depth of compassion for one another, 
the depth of simplicity,
the depth of openness, love and welcome that exists in L'Arche: 
no-one has it – no one.
“You are the living communities of peace. 
You are the living example and role model
 of what I believe the world is hungry for.”

“L’Arche has a simple message for our time: 
focus on relationships.
“Welcome the poor and the rejected. 
Create communities where relationships are the highest priority. 
Create communities where each person’s gift is valued and celebrated. 
Welcome the least 
and as a result, 
discover the best in all."

Tim Shriver, Disability Rights Activist and Chair of the Special
Olympics Committee
In L'Arche 

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6 July: Prayer for the People of Ukraine.

Yesterday we visited L’Arche; today we share a prayer for the people of Ukraine, published by L’Arche Kent. We remember especially the two L’Arche communities there, who with international assistance have been able to help their neighbours with essential supplies.

Heavenly Father, 
hear our prayers for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. 
Lord, we ask for peace for those who need peace, 
reconciliation for those who need reconciliation 
and comfort for all who don’t know what tomorrow will bring. 
Lord may your Kingdom come, 
and your will be done. 
Lord God, we ask for you to be with all
 – especially children – 
who are suffering as the crisis in Ukraine deteriorates. 
Lord, we pray for those who are anxious and fearful. 
For those who are bereaved, injured or who have lost their lives. 
And for those who have lost loved ones. 
                                                                                     Lord hear our prayers. 

L’Arche Kent Information Sheet, June 2022

Ukraine flag, Canterbury Westgate, March 2022. 

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5 July, Sustaining life: L’Arche and reasoning.

Mutual washing of feet is an important Lenten custom in L’Arche.

There has been many a battle within the Church, as well as in wider society, to persuade people to accept and treat those with learning difficulties as full and equal members. In the 1980’s and later we were still facing priests who refused to admit children to the sacraments ‘because, bless him, he doesn’t need it, he’s not reached the age of reason. He’ll never understand.’ (As if anyone fully understands the Eucharist at a rational level.)

A sister I once knew was catechist to a boy who had little spoken language; she prepared him for First Communion until the day before, when she brought along an unconsecrated wafer to enact the moment of receiving the Host. He held out his hands with such reverence; he made his First Communion there and then, she said.

That story came to mind when I read this passage from Archbishop Williams’s latest book. Regular readers will know that Agnellus’ Mirror is very fond of L’Arche. It’s good to find insights from someone else. I pray that we in L’Arche may always be consistent and life-sustaining.

It is essential for us to think about the ‘rationality’ of those we stigmatise, patronise, ignore and exclude whose mental capacity is not what we define as ‘normal’. The response of gratitude, affection, human sensitivity, ability to relate and cooperate that is visible, for example, in members of the L’Arche communities, where people with significant learning challenges live alongside those who do not have such challenges, should make us hesitate about defining the limits of ‘rationality’ without reference to such relational qualities. We may begin to see ‘reasoning’ as a richly analogical term, with an application to any form of consistent and life-sustaining adjustment to the environment, human and non-human.

From ‘Looking east in winter, contemporary thought and the Eastern Christian tradition’, Rowan WIlliams, London, Bloomsbury Continuum, 2021.

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1 July 2022: Praying with Pope Francis: Old People.

Saint Joachim, grandfather of Jesus.

Here is Pope Francis’s prayer intention for July.

We pray for the elderly, 
who represent the roots and memory of a people; 
may their experience and wisdom 
help young people to look towards the future 
with hope and responsibility.

Pope Francis has been speaking quite a lot about old age recently. Representing the roots and memory of a people is a quite responsibility for us oldies. It’s more important than you might think, until you realise that only two or three people remember events that were important at the time and helped shape our community or family today. And as for important people!

A couple of years ago a story popped into my head about a woman from Canada who helped shape our L’Arche community, back in 1975. I tracked down her brother who shared the story with her daughter – my friend had died between times. He wrote back, sharing his niece’s reaction, overjoyed to read about her mother, and a story hitherto unknown to her. ‘What a gift!’ she had said.

Yes, memory is a gift, not only for old persons but for those who are energised by the stories of beginnings and growth, prosperity and hardship. Maybe this July could be a month of sharing memories, sharing experiences and hope. Praying for the elderly might well include listening to them and recording their wisdom.

Follow this link to Independent Catholic News and Pope Francis’s video message for today.

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24 April: Columban Missionary Prayer of creation.

L’Arche entering Canterbury Cathedral, celebrating difference, celebrating unity, celebrating God’s earthly presence. Alleluia!

It’s still Easter, so let’s experience God’s earthly presence in the members of the multitude of humanity!

Loving God,
you created and brought forth humanity
to flower as a multitude of cultures.

Open our eyes and ears to your ways
so that each day 
we can better experience your earthly presence
and praise you.

Help us to grow in wisdom and goodness
witnessing that you sustain
all that exists.

AMEN

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