by ANNE-MARIE PIKE

On June 8, more than 100 people joined with the L’Arche Kapiti, Mount Tabor (Auckland), Marralomeda (Christchurch) and Faith and Light communities to honour the memory of Jean Vanier, who died in Paris on May 7.

Vanier was the founder of the L’Arche communities and the co-founder of Faith and Light.

Participants in the service at St Gregory’s, Bishopdale (Christchurch), included people from many Christian faiths, with and without intellectual disability. A joyous atmosphere prevailed as symbols and banners were brought up the aisle in procession. Then there was a quiet moment
as those present watched a video presentation on Jean’s life and message. This was followed by a moment’s silence.

Speakers included Anne-Marie Pike, founder of Marralomeda Community, about the history of the New Zealand connection with Jean Vanier; Candice Wilson, community leader of L’Arche Kapiti, about the significance of the washing of feet in our communities; and David Treanor, envoy of L’Arche International, about Jean Vanier’s last weeks and the peace he felt within as he made his journey home. Mr Treanor movingly read Jean’s last message to his friends.

The “sacrament” (Jean Vanier’s word for it) of the washing of feet is very central to life at L’Arche, Marralomeda and Faith and Light. It is a ritual that reminds us that Jesus calls us to serve one another. After a reading from John’s Gospel by Silke Carter and Norelle Pemberton from Mt Tabor, the Gospel was presented as a mime by Mary de Leijer and Karen Robson from Faith and Light. Everyone in the congregation then washed each other’s hands in pairs and shared a blessing/ prayer together. A beautiful moment
and a powerful symbol of ecumenism was when Christchurch Bishops Paul Martin, (Catholic) and Peter Carrell (Anglican) washed each other’s hands and prayed together. Quotations from Jean were read by some of the young people present before the service concluded with “Christ be Our Light”. Fun was had batting balloons to each other. After the service, hospitality was shared together and those present continued to meet each other and build community.

“If you can meet me as a human person then things begin to change. Meetings . . . to meet each other. You are a child of God; I am a child of God. What is important is that we can meet and in meeting we can transform each other.” — Jean Vanier.

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