It is with a mix of sadness and comfort that 6th Street House shares the news that our brother Charles went to heaven early Monday morning, surrounded by his housemates and friends. In the past few weeks, Charles named his excitement for going to heaven and shared that he was “ready to go give the Virgin Mary a hug” and was waiting to eat “a subway sandwich and big Christmas ham.” While we miss him greatly already, we know he is happy and at peace.
We remember Charles as a leader in our home, in L’Arche GWDC, in L’Arche USA, in L’Arche International, in St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, in Our Lady Queen of Peace, and in the Arc of Northern VA.
Charles was a bridge; he bridged divides and paradoxes, he connected people in ways that we have become unaccustomed to and frightened of imagining. He was a reminder to the world, his local communities, and regionally of the need for intentionality, inclusion, celebration, humility and that we each must seek forgiveness. As it relates to leading our home, Bruce remembers that Charles “welcomed everybody and loved everybody from the first day he was here [at 6th Street].” Charles was instrumental in naming that L’Arche is a family, and that we should call each other brother and sister. He was a spiritual leader, calling us to pray and remember to trust in God. Charles had an incredible affinity for hope–he called us to trust in God’s goodness unrelentingly.
Charles was especially proud of his role as L’Arche Representative of the USA. Most recently, Charles was a dedicated member of L’Arche USA’s discernment team and was instrumental in the process of naming the next leader of L’Arche USA. Charles made sure he was at the table where decisions were made (Bruce remembers that he loved meetings).
Charles was also an incredible world traveler. Since coming to L’Arche in 2010, he traveled to Belfast, England, Lourdes, Beauvais, Texas, Scranton, Portland,Seattle, Michigan, the Outer Banks (North Carolina), and Minnesota. In recent weeks, he shared his plans to see the Northern Lights and Rome, Italy from heaven where the view would be better.
Charles was a passionate advocate for justice and supporting proudly the police department, fire department, and the Justice department. He spoke almost yearly to the Northern VA Town Hall of VA Legislators to advocate for funding for more Developmental Disability Medicaid Waivers, so that the more than 12,000 people waiting to live in homes like L’Arche would have the chance too. He was a passionate advocate for physical accessibility, always pointing out and noting to the appropriate authority when a building was inaccessible to wheelchairs.
Most of all, Charles was the best brother anyone could ask for. He vowed to protect his family and friends throughout his life and planned to do so in heaven as well. Charles was generous with his love, and claimed the title of brother to almost everyone he ever met. When asked how Charles was able to hold so many people in his heart, he would reply, “I just do it!”
Charles, throughout his 87 years, has repeatedly, passionately, loudly, and quietly, but always prayerfully and intentionally, systematically broken down the barriers that restrict people from being able to imagine themselves in places of belonging. He leads people to places that they couldn’t imagine. He reminds us that the ‘Kingdom of God is at hand’ often through his own invitation through his own hand.
In all that Charles did, he brought people together. He bridged differences; the unspeakable moments of pain and of joy, bridging the mysteries of faith and life with care, comfort, and trust. He enabled those around him to know that they are seen. He invited others to imagine a world where differences are truly celebrated by each person and each of us is loved, needed, and known.
L’Arche is forever changed because of Charles William Clark. We are honored to be his brother. As you think of Charles in the coming days, we invite you to enjoy a cold beer and a ham sandwich, cheer on the Washington Commanders and/or Nationals, and say “I love you” with a generous and vulnerable spirit, in the way Charles always did. We also encourage you to consider how you could spread Charles’s message of family, community, justice, and love to those you encounter, and in his honor, to spread the mission of L’Arche that he so deeply valued and announced with his life.
We pray for his brothers Clyde and Gordon and their families, Charles’s nieces and nephews and all those who join with us as we celebrate and mourn. Feel free to send us any stories and photos of Charles that you wish to share at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Luke, Alice, and Bruce on behalf of 6th Street House