On a sunny Thursday morning in June, members of L’Arche GWDC loaded up vans full of community members, foregoing the usual routine of heading to work. Instead, with a custom playlist of everyone’s favorite songs, thermoses full of coffee, and much excitement, L’Arche GWDC made their way to Scranton, PA for Northeast Regional Gathering 2019! L’Arche GWDC joined other northeastern L’Arche communities – Boston North, Erie, Syracuse, Cleveland, Long Island, and L’Arche Project Frederick – in a weekend full of celebration, prayer, catching up, and making new friends.
The gathering was a shining example of community in action. While the structure of the event and theme of “Seasons of Love” was planned by the Regional Gathering Committee, each community lead different elements of the weekend including prayer times, a Solidarity Fair, and more!
Throughout the weekend, a newcomer to L’Arche may have noticed something a little different – people tended to go everywhere with others. Whether they were in the cafeteria for lunch, walking to different events, or back to the dorm at the end of the day, people were in groups or pairs. It was clear that everyone was known and loved by their community. Nobody walked alone. Regional Gathering was a also way for our communities to walk together, celebrating and supporting each other through different seasons.
At the Gathering, every community created and shared an update of what’s been going on in their community. Community presentations were creatively done – each one unique, from L’Arche Boston North wearing pirate garb and singing about their new hummus business to the dance by L’Arche Syracuse that Andrew Commisso seamlessly joined with his friend Meredith Gursky. Common themes in presentations included moving to new, more accessible housing, celebrating aging core members, and excitedly introducing new core members. Our community shared about our love of coffee and vacations as well as updates on core members who transitioned out of our homes, among other news. The presentations left many laughing and feeling a deeper sense of connection to our greater L’Arche family as we saw echoes of our own experiences in each other.
It was timely to be meeting with other L’Arche communities, to mourn the recent passing of Jean Vanier and to celebrate his life and example. Memories of Jean Vanier were shared in a Prayer Session led by Bob Sackel. In the spirit of valuing each person, there were many opportunities for L’Arche community members to express their interests and gifts this weekend! We saw examples of artistic gifts in the Solidarity Fair, as communities sold artwork and crafts (as well as snacks, games, and even temporary tattoos!) to raise money for other L’Arche communities around the world.
During the free time on Friday, community members explored the campus and town via some favorite activities. Johnny and Eva-Elizabeth went bowling while Michael and DC community members toured a coal mine. Many from Highland and Euclid houses hopped in the pool to go swimming.
Another time to share the gifts of community members was the Talent Show!
Eric, Laurie, Charles, Fritz and John Cook all participated in separate singing acts. During the talent show, L’Arche GWDC couldn’t keep themselves from getting out of their seats to dance. Eric started a conga line and invited others to join him, while Deb and Clemence twirled gently. The dancing continued throughout the Gathering until the grand conclusion of the weekend– the dance itself! L’Arche GWDC danced all night long with friends, many remarking that it was their favorite event of the weekend.
At the end of the weekend we said our goodbyes and started the journey home with our regional bonds strengthened and our hearts full. Even when our communities are far apart, we know we are not alone.