Tag Archives: work

July 24, Shared Table XXIII: an unwritten tradition.

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She was coming out of the corner shop, on her way to choir before her night shift at the Hospice. In her hand a packet of halal biscuits: I knew she was careful what she ate but not that careful …

‘I forgot to pack a snack to share,’ she said, ‘so I popped in and thought, these look interesting. pistachio wafers. There’s an unwritten tradition at work that we bring something to share through the night. Sometimes I bring crisps or grapes. We may not all three sit down together but we can still share.’

Shared food building the team, or if you like, the community. Shared food asserting life in the face of death.

So why did Jesus eat with all sorts of people? What happened on Maundy Thursday? He took our natural sharing to another level: this is my body, given for you. A promise that transforms every shared meal.

The boy shared his bread and fish with Jesus … Strasbourg Cathedral
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23 July: Shared table XXII, Wedding Cake.

We went to a couple of weddings last year, as I was reminded by the photograph in yesterday’s post. The top of the cake on that day was given to the bridesmaid for her birthday party: wouldn’t you feel special if that happened for your seventh birthday?

A friend of the bride’s mother made the cake; it was a real labour of love, and the love rippled on as the bridesmaid and her friends enjoyed it, as well as we who later ate some at home.

At our wedding, my brother made the traditional fruit cake. The top layer was still good eighteen months later when our firstborn was baptised. Ponder the many connections there, the sharing of our wedding cake, not with our daughter (even I would not offer a newborn a crumb of wedding cake), but with people we had not known when we got married. But soon after the wedding, slices had been posted around the world to people who were unable to be with us on the day. As far as Burkina Faso, Paraguay and Australia.

You don’t have to be in the same room at the same time to share food and drink.

Such sharing points to something very important, don’t you think?

The best willow pattern service accompanied the eating of our slices of wedding cake last year.

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A Message from the leader of the L’Arche Kent Community

Many of you know L’Arche is an international organisation and aims to spread the word about how valued people with learning disabilities are, and how important it is to work with people from all over the world. L’Arche has a core tradition of hospitality and welcome and we believe that having assistants from abroad that live within the community brings an important irreplaceable asset to our Community and to the lives of people with a learning disability.

For over 40 years, L’Arche Kent has welcomed  people from within and outside Europe as assistants on a temporary basis, adding to the richness and diversity of our Community.  Whilst nationally the proportion of international assistants  every year is small, there are seven from outside the EU in L’Arche Kent this year, and they remain a vital element of our Community. L’Arche is both a well-regarded service provider and peace-building network.  By enabling relationships between such a diverse body of people, we evidence the central importance of relationship in the building of understanding, trust and friendship between different human beings.

We are now facing a time when this tradition is being challenged and the future of these “live in assistants” is being threatened and we think you need to know about what is happening.

The benefits these people from abroad bring to us all are now under threat by a recent tightening of the regulations and a more strict interpretation of UKVI guidance which applies to the type of visa which international live-in applicants require to join L’Arche (a Tier 5 Temporary Charity Worker visa). These community assistants  are provided with board and lodging and subsistence; they provide friendship and sustain the life of the Community, whilst also providing care and support to members with learning disabilities. We have operated this way for over 40 years.

Our  assistants who are affected would have to leave prematurely and suddenly in September were our visa sponsorship licence to be revoked. This would cause distress to them and to our Community  and disrupt the support we provide.

These live in assistants, these community members from abroad that are willing to give us a year of their lives to help us, are not a strain on the resources of the UK or the UK taxpayer.  International live-in assistants  have no recourse to public funds. They are not eligible for welfare benefits, and they pay their own way via the Healthcare NHS surcharge, and other costs such as short breaks away during their year.  Any change in their status or whereabouts during the year is reported to UKVI by L’Arche.  Live-in assistants are not paid a salary; they receive free board and lodging and subsistence. L’Arche was awarded an exemption from the National Minimum Wage Act in 1999, in recognition of the Intentional Community nature of shared living, and in pursuit of a religious and spiritual objective (Section 44A of the Minimum Wage legislation).  Live-in assistants receive the same training as live-out assistants, plus additional input tailored to their specific community-building role.  They contribute to the support which Social Workers assess for each person with a learning disability – and add enormous value through the daily life they share living alongside people with learning disabilities.

Why is the UK Government changing our lives? 

Prior to the introduction of the Points Based System for visa awards in 2008, the Home Office guidance contained a concession for charities wishing to invite voluntary workers from outside Europe (chapter 17 section 9 of the Immigration directorate’s instructions in force at the time).  L’Arche was specifically named in Annex B to that section of the guidance, and our live-in assistant roles were described as falling within the concession.

With the introduction of the Points Based System, the guidance was rewritten, and the Annex containing the list of legitimate charities was deleted.  At the time, we understood we had clear agreement from UKVI that our continued Mission would fit with the criteria applied by the new Tier 5 visa rules. This proved to be the case for several years, and our view was affirmed by two inspections in 2012 and 2015.

However our commitment to International live-in assistants  is now jeopardised by the recent UKVI decision on 8/6/18 to suspend L’Arche’s licence to sponsor Tier 5 visas.  Although we have not changed the way we welcome international live-in assistants, these roles are now judged to fall outside the guidance. This decision partly rests on a tightening of the wording of the regulations in late 2015; it had previously been accepted that International live-in assistants were not taking up permanent roles, because they were dependent on a one-year visa. The new wording said that permanent roles could not be filled on a temporary basis, and our arrangements have been judged to fail this test. More generally, UKVI staff are implementing a stricter interpretation of the guidance than had been in place; arguing for example that our subsistence payments are too high, although we are confident that we are operating within our concession under the National Minimum Wage Act.

We have responded challenging these points, but if UKVI are not convinced by our arguments, they will revoke our licence and all of our International assistants will have to leave the country within 60 days. We fear that even should we mount a successful challenge this time, the questions will arise again. We are therefore asking for your help in lobbying the Minister to not revoke our licence, but instead to reinstate the explicit concession for L’Arche (and similar charities) within the guidance, so that our Communities can continue with the life-affirming mission in which we have been engaged for over 40 years.

We hope that you will share our concerns and contact your MP or visit them to help create awareness amongst our politicians as to how this change will affect the L’Arche Communities and the L’Arche Kent Community.

Yours

David Bex

Community Leader

L’Arche Kent

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17 June: News from L’Arche Kent.

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We have just received the latest newsletter from our friends at L’Arche Kent which they have asked us to share. Just click on the link below!

As you can see from this shot a few weeks ago, the Glebe garden is right in the city, thought now that the trees have greened up it is a good deal more private than in winter time. It looks as though Rupert and Mark are busy cutting the osiers (willow stems) for craft work. Where is everyone else?

2018 Spring Newsletter

MB

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June 9th, Shared Table XXI: Eating at Your Desk.

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Last summer we wandered across Manchester City Centre to see crowds sitting on the grass in Piccadilly Gardens, eating lunch-time sandwiches, some in small groups, other singletons often on their phones. Perhaps they too felt the need to be sociable when eating.

And good for them all, to have taken advantage of a comparatively rare sunny day in Manchester to get out of the office or whatever their workplace, and make a picnic of it.

I was reminded of a time years ago. Muddy boots were a  bone of contention at morning break where I was working. The indoor workers wanted their space to be clean and tidy. The gardeners wanted to get indoors for ten minutes, and some of them had real bother getting their boots on and off.

The boss, an office man through and through, said that he had always had a coffee brought to him at his desk, so maybe the indoor workers and the outdoor workers should sit down on the spot and take a quick refuelling break and get on with their work.

I don’t know that he ever saw the point the rest of us were arguing: it was not just a refuelling stop, but a together time. Like the coffee break I enjoyed at the Glebe this morning, with my L’Arche friends. Maybe the boss missed out on ‘milk and biscuit’ time when he was of an age to go to nursery school. Milk and sugar? Bourbon or pink wafer?

MMB.

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June 3: Corpus Christi – what a waste!

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Janet had been watching a documentary about life in the Himalayas. Amid the fierce natural beauties the programme visited a Buddhist monastery, where the monks ground rock crystals into powder which they dyed into bright colours. They used the sand to create religious symbols which would be displayed for a while, then swept away. Life is passing was the truth they held before themselves in this exercise.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, I might have said, but didn’t. Instead my mind went back to school days, when preparations for Corpus Christi included the enjoyable task of dying sawdust to make pictures to decorate the route of the Blessed Sacrament procession. The top picture from 1956 shows students at Saint Augustine’s College in Blacklion, Ireland, decorating the drive. The other shows the culmination of the Corpus Christi procession at the Priory, my school in Hampshire, but before my time, in 1948. The first is by Anthony Whelan, the second by Robert Clyde, both come from the website of the friends of the Missionaries of Africa: the pelicans.

Anthony’s photograph shows how these designs will be trampled underfoot. Sic transit – so many labours of love, think of wedding cakes or fireworks, are made to serve for a moment in time. Think, too, of the woman anointing the Lord’s feet with precious oil (Luke7:36-50). Or the oil the other women took to the tomb: an extravagant waste of effort/time/money, says the utilitarian.

But isn’t all we have, see, touch, taste an extravagant gift? Let’s be grateful on this day of the Eucharist, of thanksgiving. If we no longer have processions, we can celebrate with a shared meal, or even eating alone, thank God for the food and raise a glass to absent friends.

And Laudato Si!

 

MMB

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May 29: Relics XII: To everything a season, turn turn.

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When L’Arche Kent were looking for a home for this machine, I remembered:
Back in November 1979, there were a few hand-powered machines on a shelf at L’Arche. Four years before, I had scrounged the shuttle for one of them from a reluctant salesman at the Singer shop in Canterbury. He could not sell me one, as fittings had changed since 1914, but we got that machine working again after he rather exasperatedly let me take the shuttle from a broken machine outside the shop door. Back then Singer’s offered £10 part-exchange on old machines for new, but destroyed the old one. Obviously there was no commission coming my transaction!
 So, in November 1979 Janet and I were visiting Little Ewell together, and she asked Sue Dolan if she could buy a machine for her own use. Sue told her to help herself to whichever she liked; the community did not need a treadle machine and three hand-powered.
Over to the workshop in the dark, and which machine did we choose?
No prize for guessing! But there was another reason for choosing it, though it was not the best of the three. This was a German machine, made around the time of the Great War, which belonged to a Mrs Day of Dover. In 1940 her daughter was a pupil at Miss Kennet’s private school out at Temple Ewell where she was when the German bomb fell on the house, killing her mother. All that was salvaged was the sewing machine; its case was beyond repair, the base badly damaged.
Miss Kennet was an early supporter of L’Arche Kent. We knew her as ‘Ken’. She had taken in the shell-shocked ‘Daisy’ – as we called Miss Day, and had looked after her ever since. In her turn Daisy cared for Ken up in Canon’s Cottage in Barfrestone Village, after they retired from the school. It was a privilege to be invited for afternoon tea.
The school house served as a base for a changing  group of Assistants until it was sold and 20 The Glen Shepherdswell, at walking distance from Barfrestone, was bought. But that’s another story or two: this one is about a relic from the earliest friends of the community. A story about The Glen was told last June, see :
MMB

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28 May: Happy Monday!

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What are some of the surprises that God has blessed you with today? Pray with this question and, together, let us allow our hearts to be open to being surprised by God’s grace!

Happy Monday!

Those few lines are by Father James Kurzynski, writing on the Vatican Observatory Website about a day full of good surprises. Do take up his challenge before bedtime, but also  follow this link to his surprising day. He was like a kid in an Astronomical Candy Store, he tells us, finishing with a shared meal with a friend and family.

Laudato Si’!

MMB

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22 May: In the Cathedral of the Forest

firtrees.sky (800x672)Many years ago I worked in a ‘Subnormality Hospital’ as they were called in England, or as this one was called in Switzerland, an Asylum. The men and women who lived there had often been committed by their parents who had been told that they had no place in society, but would be happy and safe in the asylum.

There was a young, international staff who were gradually changing the regime, recognising the human potential going to waste. Many of the people I would meet at L’Arche Kent in the early days had spent long years in such places.

Martin was around fifty, but looked older. Shortly before I arrived he had gone missing for three days and nights before walking back, very tired and hungry.

‘And do you know where he was, Maurice? He doesn’t talk about it any more, but he took a promenade in the woods, and spent those days and nights watching a family of fox cubs. Their mother seems to have known that Martin was no threat.’

Half an hour sitting still and quiet in Canterbury Cathedral is pushing it for me! Make that a quarter of an hour…

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Martin found his own chapel in the Cathedral of the Forest and was like Wisdom at the Creation: at God’s hand, observing and enjoying creation. A personal Pentecost.

The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived. neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out:The mountains with their huge bulk had not as yet been established: before the hills I was brought forth: He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world.

When he prepared the heavens, I was present: when with a certain law and compass he enclosed the depths: When he established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters: When he compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when be balanced the foundations of the earth; I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men.

Proverbs 8.

 

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19 May: Saint Dunstan, Bishop and Blacksmith. Relics XI

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It’s comforting to learn that a bishop has a hinterland, that he has not been born and bred in a purple cassock. Eric Treacy of Wakefield with his steam trains or the poet Archbishop Rowan Williams in more modern times, Peter the fisherman  and Paul the tentmaker at the beginning. But halfway between them we find Dunstan of Canterbury, bishop, blacksmith, harpist and illuminator of manuscripts. Who mentioned Dark Ages?

Back in September, Janet and I visited Canterbury Cathedral for their annual Open House day. There was a stall for the archaeologists, who had a dish of slag, the product of smelting iron from rock, just like that to be found around the tips of Merthyr Tydfil. In another dish alongside it were magnetic black chippings, typically 3mm long: these were shards of iron thrown off when a piece of hot iron was hammered on the anvil. ‘Is this from Saint Dunstan’s workshop?’ I joked. ‘Perhaps’, they said, ‘it’s certainly Saxon.’

It seems that Saxon Canterbury was a centre for fine ironwork. As that fact sank in, suddenly the portly monk was there beside us, just a few steps from his grave, wearing his leather apron, hammer in hand. Of course that was my fond imagination, though I had seen the self-portait of Dunstan kneeling before Christ when it was exhibited here and so knew what he looked like.

But those relics of manual work – maybe of Dunstan’s labour, but probably other monks’ really – said more to me than any bone in gold and crystal reliquary.

MMB.

Public Domain, Wikipedia.

 

 

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