One of the authentic prophets of our time is Jean Vanier whose friendship with a person with severe learning disabilities was the foundation for the L’Arche communities. The first one opened in 1964 in France and L’Arche communities are now present in many different countries. By living in intentional community with people some of whom have serious learning difficulties, and some of whom have other challenges, living with diversity and difference, we open ourselves up to grow and be transformed. I know that is true because I received my earliest call to genuine priesthood through my brother, who had very severe learning difficulties but a genius for love.
Jean Vanier’s work is a prophetic word for the church today. We are not called to be a church of warring sects like those which the great 17th century Anglican theologian Sir Thomas Browne denounced as “heads that are disposed unto schism and ”¦. naturally indisposed for a community” but “do subdivide and mince themselves almost into atoms”.
Members of the Church of England say that they are “part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” which Jesus intended. The Great and Coming church is ahead of us. We must never forget our role in realising Christ’s prayer for this one church. We must cherish our Christian friends and never forget what Pope John Paul II said to Archbishop Runcie, “affective collegiality is the basis of effective collegiality”. We should seek partnerships in the gospel at whatever level we are working. We should seek alliances in the wider household of faith in building a servant community whose attractiveness pagans will not be able to deny. Thank God for the gracious presence here tonight of so many Christian friends from other communions.