Letters of L'Arche 121: Bringing our story alive
“Inculturation” is one of the principles of our Constitution, a term which has been part of L’Arche for a long time but which continues to be a concept that is difficult to grasp. The Identity and Mission process has highlighted the importance of the authenticity of L’Arche, but it has also shown the need to be in relationship to those around us, , to be true to ourselves and open to others, to question and to be questioned. Today, we are looking for a common understanding of what the Constitution describes as “inculturation”, a controversial terminology, due to its origins and its connotations, both within and outside of L’Arche.
The photos of the article “On the front page” show members of L’Arche in Paris, their pictures having been taken by assistants and friends. The connection between all the pictures, says one of the photographers, is “without doubt, the ability of people with an intellectual disability to bring alive their own history”. What is the link between our theme “inculturation” and these photos from Paris?
Despite the geographical distance, these photos allow the members of L’Arche in Paris to show us their point of view of the world. Their gift, in front of the photographer, is to show their authenticity, to communicate their message. When we look at the photos and when we read the comments of photographers and those photographed about their shared moment, we feel invited to join in and to adapt our point of view to theirs’.
In L’Arche – and elsewhere – we learn that the authenticity of a person is linked to the welcome and the openness towards the other. No mutual relationship, no friendship, without honesty and openness. No transformation without the recognition of the value of every person, nor without the freedom to allow ourselves to question and be questioned.
And if we transpose the concept of mutually transforming relationships to communities and to the message of L’Arche within our cultures? Wouldn’t we come to the definition that we are looking for? Shouldn’t we try to “bring alive” our founding story, our message, to those around us and, at the same time, invite them into a dialogue, constantly readjusting to what we learn from each other?
We engage in a dynamic dialogue between the mission of L\\\'Arche and cultures. Our mission within the different cultures comes alive through an ongoing process of reciprocal and critical interaction and assimilation.
We propose on this page a working definition, which may evolve with our reflections and actions, but which today is to be a starting point for the Federation. In this issue, you will also be able to read comments and articles that can enrich your own reflections. Brenda Hermann helps us with this cloudy expression, “inculturation”, explains its origins and its meaning, and presents its brothers and cousins, such as culture, acculturation and charism. Eugen Lukashevich just writes about his life in which acculturation and inculturation mingle, where authenticity and openness are put to the test. Pat Favaro tells us about the first steps of the communities of his region that have started to put into practice the concept of inculturation.
In their short message in the “Federation” section, the two International Coordinators affirm that “we have now completed the Identity and Mission process”. If this issue reflects the beginning of a new stage, it is certainly not a coincidence that we are able to present, at the same time, the result of the “process of integration and ownership” of our identity statement. Look up page xy for the new statement.
We hope that the new statement makes you want ‘to bring it alive’, to live it radically in your own particular context with the help of those around you.