For many people, Wednesday night is church night. I don’t spend my Wednesday nights in church, but I spend it where we have church.
Nestled in the a nearby neighborhood, behind a strip mall, are two houses where those with and without disabilities live together. Sheltered by the tall tress on the hillside, this little community seeks to eliminate the stereotype of people with disabilities.
Every Wednesday evening, I take some time to sing, ponder, and pray with the L’Arche community in Lynchburg. L’Arche – The Ark – is a community home for intellectually disabled individuals. There are 135 L’Arche communities in 36 countries around the world.
Drawing on the Biblical narrative of Noah and the Ark, L’Arche is the place where those with developmental disabilities go to be safe from the storms of life. In 1964 the Canadian humanitarian Jean Vanier founded L’Arche. He was deeply troubled by the institutionalization of people with developmental disabilities, that too often resulted in isolation and loneliness. He invited two men with disabilities to live in his house and he called it “L’Arche.”
The L’Arche community in Lynchburg has welcomed me to join them on Wednesday nights for their Spiritual Life Night.
We sing a lot. Each of the core members have a favorite song that we try to sing. But we also teach a few new songs every once and awhile. Most recently we had a Christmas Carol Sing-along.
We take a few moments to recall a Biblical story and talk about it. Then we each share a joy or a concern. Sometimes I pray, and sometimes the core members take turns praying.
And the night is not complete unless Gordon sings a song.
Some people can’t believe that I do this as often as I do. When I was first asked to consider leading Spiritual Life Night, I’ll admit I wasn’t too sure. But every Wednesday night, when I’m sitting with my friends and singing and praying together, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
I see it as fulfilling my call as an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. The deacon is called to Word, Service, Justice, and Compassion. The image most often used to describe the ministry of the deacon is that of a bridge. The deacon is a bridge between the church and the world. All this happens at L’Arche on Wednesday nights.
There are places in our society where the core members are not treated like adults. They are spoken down to. They are looked passed. L’Arche creates a community where these things do not happen. A community where they are valued and loved. And I have the honor of being a part of this community.