Living L’Arche Virtually
For many, many years, L’Arche Cleveland has held Community Prayer on the first and third Wednesday of every month. All the houses would gather at Agape (our largest home) for a prayer and meal together. Houses would take turns planning the prayer, often based around an upcoming holiday or meaningful song, and lead the community in a small prayer service. Afterwards, we set up tables in the living room and dining room and ate a meal together.
Our last “typical” Community Prayer at Agape was on March 6th, and we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. Looking back, we’re happy we celebrated early so we were able to have our annual St. Patrick’s Day meal together.
In addition to bi-weekly Community Prayer nights, we also gathered regularly for a lunchtime prayer group called Chat N Chew. Every Thursday, our retired Core Members would bring a brown-bag lunch (or McDonald’s!) to the office and eat with the office staff. After eating, we made cards for people we wanted to pray for. In early March, we put both Chat N Chew and Community Prayer on hold.
It has been a big adjustment to completely stop our get togethers. Core Members and assistants used in person events as a time to connect with community members from other houses. Without events, it can be hard to feel part of the bigger community. This isolation can be particularly hard for new members of the community like new live-in assistant, Shannon.
When asked about her experience with virtual prayer, Shannon said, “Virtual community time is a wonderful experience for me in that I get to spend time with and meet the entire community, even in this time of social distancing.” Shannon lives in Agape House and works in Mercy House. She has been unable to meet any other members of the community since starting in mid-September. “Without virtual community events I would not be able to meet the other core members and assistants at all! Chat & Chew and community prayer is a beautiful way to be able to feel connected with the entirety of L’Arche Cleveland as a new assistant.”
Virtual community events have been life-giving to even long-time community members, like Gloria. When asked if she ever remembers going this long without seeing other members of the community, she offered a very quick and firm “No!” Prayer has always been an integral part of community life. This makes it even more difficult for our Core Members to cope with such a drastic lifestyle change. Gloria said that virtual events make it a little easier to be stuck at home. Her favorite part is seeing assistants from other houses.
Core Members and Assistants have learned how to navigate “Living L’Arche” in this time of social distancing. It isn’t always easy, but we’ve grown through many positive moments in the process.
Community Prayer is now more accessible. Former Assistants who may live out of the area have tuned in, as well as current Board Members. We have even been able to connect with other L’Arche communities around the country. L’Arche USA started a program called “The L’Arche Cafe,” where communities all around the US were invited to gather virtually.
In 2020, we have had to redefine what it means to be a community. While unconventional, the bond we have together is stronger than ever. We count down the days until we can be physically together, but have grown to love our virtual community.