April/May 2016 - Vol. 85

family walking at crossroad 
‘Stand at the Crossroads and Look…’
Wisdom from 37 Years Ago…

by Roger Foley

This life, this radical community living we seek to engage, is a call of God. The importance of this particular call gets clearer as the environment in which we live our Christianity gets more and more secular and at times blatantly aggressive against things Christian. Traditional family values are under attack, and generations are growing up with a built in rejection of the very Biblical basis of marriage as held by their parents.Societal slide is evident worldwide. What will this mean to our communities into the future? What will this mean in attracting new people or adding our children in what will clearly be counter-cultural living? What will this mean in our relationship into wider society, the wider structures of law and society?

Jeremiah 6:16 has some wisdom: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ I love this Scripture which speaks to me of a ‘path well walked.’ And so I want to walk with you a short path of just 37 years to the journey of a man named Jean Vanier.

I first heard of Vanier when I managed a large agency with responsibility for men, women and children with developmental delay and those with moderate to severe physical disability. In 1964 Jean a Canadian Catholic philosopher, theologian and humanitarian, established an international movement named ‘L'Arche’. From humble beginnings with one integrated living household near Paris, L’Arche’ is now established with 147 ‘ecumenical’ household communities in 35 countries. They have two groups here in New Zealand, one in Wellington, and one in Christchurch -indeed they used to purchase our lamington cakes in volume as a fundraiser. Great people. In 1979, the year the Lamb of God was established, Vanier wrote a very challenging book entitled ‘Community and Growth’ [Society of St Paul]. The book is readily available today for just a few dollars and it is entirely suitable for personal or group reflection. Veronica and I are re-reading ‘Community and Growth’ and even in the first few pages I am coming across my notations and underlining of 36 years ago, as relevant today as it was to me back then. I share with you some extracts in the first 36 pages of 252:

  • ‘A community is only a community when the majority of its members transition from “the community for myself” to “myself for the community,” when each person’s heart is opening to all the others, without any exception.’
  • ‘The mutual trust at the heart of community is born of each day’s forgiveness and the acceptance of our frailty and poverty. But this trust is not developed overnight.That is why it takes time to form a real community’.
  • A community is not simply a group of people who live together and love each another. It is a current of life, a heart, a soul, and a spirit. It is people who love each other a great deal and who are all reaching towards the same hope'
  • ‘I am more and more struck by people in community who are dissatisfied. When they live in small communities they want to be in large ones… when they are in large communities they dream of small ones. Don’t we all dream of the perfect community where we will be at peace, in perfect harmony? The ideal doesn’t exist. Stop looking, give yourself where you are. Stop looking at yourself and look instead at your brothers and sisters…’

We are blind indeed if we cannot learn from those outside of our own community who have ‘walked the talk’ and ‘lived the life.’ To Vanier I am grateful because his example has I believe strengthened, not weakened, my appreciation and engagement of this call in God - the building of a Covenant Community.

Roger and Veronica Foley

Roger Foley is senior coordinator of the Lamb of God Community. He and his wife Veronica live in Christchurch, New Zealand.
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