L’Arche Australia is an ecumenical movement building community for people living with and without intellectual disabilities. Rather than a service provider, L’Arche encourages people to share life together – all the joys, sadness and mundane tasks we experience throughout our day-to-day lives.
‘Friends of L’Arche Perth’ has been meeting since 2003, and has built a strong network around regular gatherings and worship. The group are now at a stage where they are looking into how they could invite people into permanent accommodation together – one of the characteristics of the global L’Arche movement.
David Treanor, Director of L’Arche Australia, visited Perth recently from Tasmania to spend time with the local community and discuss how they could get closer to that dream. During his visit, David spent a live-in weekend with three members of the ‘Friends of L’Arche’ Perth community. Over the weekend, the group shared life together. They hung out, prayed, invited guests over for a BBQ lunch, watched the World Cup (plus some other sports as well) and went to church together.
“It’s about doing the everyday tasks,” David said. “There’s a drudgery to everyday life, and the drudgery is just living together, but there’s a greatness in all of that.
“One of our key phrases in L’Arche is about being with and doing with people, rather than doing for people. It’s about being side by side in the everydayness of life.
“I would argue that’s the thing that people miss most with an intellectual disability. People do things for people, rather than with people, and that the idea of social relationships between people, with and without intellectual disabilities, isn’t actively encouraged in our society.”
As an ecumenical community, once a month, St Nicholas’ Anglican Church in Floreat Park holds a Crosslinks service for people living with intellectual disabilities, their friends, families and other supporters – such as ‘Friends of L’Arche Perth’. The service is a welcoming place for all people and encourages everyone to take part.
David said that having a role in worship is an important way for people to feel valued, and that Perth is leading the way in this aspect.
“We all know from sociology we need roles in life. I think one of the things we’ve been able to do is help people to acquire roles in life,” he said.
Gill Muir, from Maylands Mt Lawley Uniting Church, attends Crosslinks with her son, Robbie, who takes part in the service each month. She said L’Arche is a family, and that the service is an important part of their lives.
“A lot of sharing goes on there and it’s really good for them and they can take part in the service too,” she said.
Gill added that people living with disabilities are often seen as not being able to take part in running worship, but that L’Arche believes everyone has a place, and that Jesus had time for everyone.
“Robbie would never miss Crosslinks because he’s a server and he just loves it,” she said. “It’s so important to him.”
‘Friends of L’Arche Perth’ is open to people of all denominations and faiths and is currently seeking funding. While there is a large committee in Perth, the project survives on donations. For more information and to donate, visit folperth.org.
Crosslinks and ‘Friends of L’Arche Perth’ will be holding an annual joint service to celebrate the link between the two organisations. It will be held on Sunday 5 August, 5.00pm, at St George’s Cathedral Perth. For information on the Crosslinks service visit floreat.perth.anglican.org/about-crosslinks.
The 15th Triennial Assembly Meeting of the Uniting Church in Australia, which met in Melbourne in July, adopted a Statement of Access and Welcome to guide conversations about justice for people living with disabilities. Click here for more information.