"What is the secret that allows L'Arche to exist? I'll tell you: pleasure!" explains Jean Vanier, founder of the international federation of L'Arche communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities share their lives. Vanier's spiritual vision and playful sense of humour shaped L'Arche, but the organization was also informed by its surprising history with the United Church of Canada.
In Tender to the World Carolyn Whitney-Brown explores the connections between the two organizations through diverse critical insights from Julia Kristeva, Doreen Massey, and Mikhail Bakhtin, as well as Vanier's controversial articulation of the gift of weakness. Tracing the five-decade relationship between L'Arche and the United Church alongside evolving disability theories, Whitney-Brown examines both the fundamental importance of stories and the agency of people with intellectual disabilities. Inversion – a transformative overturning of expectations in social interactions – can be upsetting or exciting, challenging or inspiring, she argues. This book offers a fresh look at how L'Arche and the United Church have worked to break down walls of difference, illuminating how each tenders something unexpected to the other and to the world.
At a time when many are seeking new visions for society, the long and complex relationship between Canada's largest Protestant denomination and L'Arche offers both encouragement and a deeper way to approach questions of living in diverse communities.