This interest led me to study disability theology at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary this past year and eventually led me to L’Arche Daybreak, an intentional community for people with developmental disabilities in Toronto, Ontario. At L’Arche, where I have been living the past month, I observe worship patterns constantly emerging in the daily rhythms of life shared with 37 core members (residents) and the assistants who come to work and learn from them.
Worshipping with people who have disabilities has drawn me into a deep part of my soul which prior to L’Arche I had not known existed. This piece of my soul has become exposed to the light through daily prayers which show the deepest cries of the heart and through exuberant, overflowing praise. There is something sacred about the time we spend together. Our worship calms even typically unresponsive core members, who signal to us that they are praying by changes in gestures and presence. We always end our times with the Lord’s Prayer.
Deborah Ferber enjoys a moment with friends from her L'Arche community home in Toronto: (left to right) Mary-Anne, Deborah, Dayrll.
The Lord’s Prayer has taken on great meaning to me over the course of the past year while I was attending seminary. I began to pray it earnestly every day and began to see changes in my life when I did so.
Even though the Lord’s Prayer was important to me before coming to L’Arche in July, it wasn’t until I started praying it every night around the table with brothers and sisters who have Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism that it began to make deeper sense to me. When we pray for God to give us our daily bread, I see that it means something different to those who are not able to provide that bread for themselves through working but rely completely on others for their daily needs. When one lives in an intentional community, opportunities to be hurt present themselves daily, and so we pray that God forgives us of our trespasses. When we pray that God lead us out of temptation, we embrace our own neediness, despair, and understanding that we can be taken advantage of.
All of these experiences are powerful to me, as are the Friday night weekly worship sessions in our chapel. The first service I attended was a Roman Catholic mass. When the altar server with Down Syndrome offered me the Body and Blood of Christ I had a heightened awareness of what it means to be a part of Christ’s brokenness and suffering. When I looked around the chapel, I noticed that many of our core members use wheelchairs and thought about how many have been shunted around by a world which does not understand them. Frequently targeted by bullies, many carry around shame as a result. When someone in this position tells me, “The body of Christ broken for you,” our brokenness is intensified as we come to terms with our common human frailty. It is a very moving experience.
Deborah Ferber (above left) is a Field Associate for ADN. She is working and living in a L'Arche community in Edinburgh, Scotland.