Tag Archive: Larche
Exciting news from Manchester is that L’arche are opening a new community in Manchester. The leader of the group, Kevin Coogan, came and gave a fascinating and engaging talk about his experience with L’arche and his passion for living with adults with learning disabilities. He explained how L’arche, set up by the Canadian Catholic Jean Vanier, had pioneered the model of ‘care in the community’ in the 50’s and 60’s when those with serious mental or physical disability had been confined to large institutions and kept out of sight and mind.
He was so honest and open about the challenges of living with people who had often been abandoned at birth, confined to institutions which may have provided a safe but often not a caring environment. So the psychological damage of this experience created another level of difficulties. The power of L’arche is that these people become friends. And it was fascinating to me to hear how an emotional co-dependence can actually be healing rather than destructive or limiting. The Community is being part funded by the local authority as they are providing a quality of care for vulnerable adults that is unlikely to be matched. But that relationship has a very interesting tension – for instance where do you draw the lines between a true life-giving healing relationship and safe professional distance.
A fascinating example Kevin gave was his experience of going on holiday with his wife and kids and bringing two community members with them. From a faith perspective this is a wonderful and inclusive act of generosity, an unforgettable experience that is priceless. As a priest I am often grateful for the hospitality of being received into families whether for dinner or a brief break. However from the cold hard gaze of the local authority – often the funding agency – it would be tempting to be cynical and say, this is a sneaky way of subsidising a family holiday. Of course this is open to abuse, but when you see the compassion and the generosity with which they are received into the family environment you have to applaud the vision behind this, and bemoan the short-sightedness of the limited vision that comes from a cynical administrative approach. It was a meeting that has left me much to ponder!
We had a great evening at the chaplaincy on Friday Night – as the Faith and Politics series of evenings came to a climax. With 4 guests, 2 current MP’s, a former MP and a prominent Catholic Journalist. What was very striking was how positive the energy was, and it is important to remember how much we can achieve when we are looking outwards rather than inwards. It is an unhealthy community that splits into factions and rows and gossips about ‘internal matters’ whether dogma or politics. A dynamic attractive community is one that puts its faith into action, helping and engaging with civil society. First up on Friday was Ivan Lewis MP, who talked about his Jewish identity and upbringing, and his passionate defence of faith schools. Currently the Shadow Secretary for International Development, we had moved his talk forward as he left us to go straight to the airport to fly to Burma and meet Aung San Suu Kyi.
Talking about Faith and Politics from a liberal Jewish perspective it was interesting to hear him talk about the need for integration not assimilation – with an implicit critique to ‘assertive secularism’. He argued that a good faith school gives you a strong identity which allows integration. Compare this to Dawkin’s absurd claim that faith schools are a form of child abuse. It resonated with me when Mr Lewis said that the lack of a sense of identity was a big problem with young people. Interestingly this is something I have been pondering recently – especially a phenomenon I see more and more as the Digital Age allows people to experiment with multiple identities. Although there is a sort-of freedom in this, ultimately the lack of a deep-rooted identity, especially the experimenting with conflicting identities which on line anonymity allows, often leads to bullying and abuse – and also a vulnerability to being buffeted by the shrill winds of consumerism and ‘lifestyle agendas’.
The other MP – Paul Goggins, in contrast shared about how his identity had been shaped at Manchester University – particularly through experiences are working with disabled children through L’arche. This ethos of service was rooted in his faith – and I am delighted he mentioned this as we were invited at yesterdays evenings mass to get involved with the Manchester L’arche community that is opening. My next post will be about the other two guests on a memorable night!