When we planned this year’s L’Arche Kent pilgrimage, we did not see it as a missionary enterprise. It was a chance for the community to spend time together, which is not going to happen unless we make space for it, as we now number more than 100 people with and without learning disabilities, living and working together in a mosaic of different ways, but sometimes not seeing a friend for weeks or months at a time.
There was a fairly simple shape to the pilgrims’ day: pray, walk, eat; pray, walk, eat being the plan. Looking back, it seems to me it was a missionary journey. We began at Dover beach, with prayers in the open air; but most of our formal praying took place in churches we visited on our way. The invasion of upwards of fifty walkers was out of the ordinary for each church we visited. We were made welcome everywhere.
‘It’s so good that our church is being prayed in,’ was one reaction to our visit. Other congregations laid on refreshments. Another asked that we sign the visitors’ book, which we gladly did wherever we found one. ‘It will help us to get grants and permission for toilets if we can show that we are welcoming pilgrims.’
Toilets as a missionary activity? We would say so, based on our experience. At one point on our journey maybe 20 people used the facilities in the home of a centenarian friend (or should we say member) of the community.
Saint Paul does not go into such details!
We came to each church to pray and refresh the outer man or woman as well as the inner. We came to visit the Lord, but we, and our dogs, visited the body of Christ that Paul did talk about, and, I believe we helped to build it up wherever we called.
So it was a missionary journey in many ways that I at least did not foresee. Mutually building up the body of Christ in our L’Arche and parish communities. Perhaps we will be more aware of that next year!
L’Arche Kent, 18a St Radigunds St, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2AA. Telephone 01227 643025