June 22, 2018 – This reflection is from a blessing service for Carl MacMillan at the L’Arche Daybreak Dayspring written by his friend Jacquie Boughner.
Tonight’s gospel is the story of the naming of John the Baptist. “His name is John” and “the hand of the Lord was with him”. This is the feast day of St. John the Baptist and for those with the name John or Jean; this is their ‘name day’. In Orthodox Christian cultures this is still observed with gifts and flowers, as important as a birthday.
So it is appropriate, that as we celebrate Carl as Community Leader, we also celebrate Jean Vanier’s ‘name day’ with the servant leadership model of John the Baptist. Because these are the values that Jean as the founder of L’Arche, lives and teaches as the fundamental qualities in L’Arche leadership.
Richard Rohr says of John the Baptist, that he was “a man who knew who he was and who he wasn’t”. He knew that he was not the Messiah, the Savior, but that he was ‘a preparer’ and a witness. His vocation was to prepare and make straight a way for the Lord – to prepare hearts for the one who would personally invite each into a relationship of respect and friendship. And he was a witness to the light to the nations – the light who would give a humiliated people back their dignity and freedom – just not in the way they expected.
John the Baptist’s announcement “Behold the Lamb of God’ – the ‘Lamb’ of God, was a revelation that God is present in humility and littleness – an image of the face and heart of God that is a mystery that confounds the wise, then and now.
This is the same revelation of Jean Vanier when he heard the cry of the poor – the cry of God in vulnerability and weakness that became the foundation, the mission and identity of L’Arche. Of the L’Arche servant leadership model, Jean says, “I always look first for a love and enthusiasm for the mission and a certain competence for the mission – this is a double element. I look also for truth and humility. .. In leadership, we’re there not for ourselves but for the mission.”
He writes with gratitude for his formation in the navy and the competence of administrative skills in leadership – the practical needs of an organization.
But L’Arche’s servant leadership also requires the revelation of John the Baptist – that a leader is not the savior of the community, but the ‘preparer’ who nourishes and enables a way for this gift of love, embodied in fragility to thrive, and to witness to the sacredness of this gift, as a sign to the world.
Jean Vanier says “A community belongs to humanity. It has received a gift which must bear fruit for the sake of others…for the growth of the people for whom it is destined.” “The spirit of a community is more than a way of life. It is a hope, an incarnation of love”.
Jean describes community as “like a garden full of flowers, shrubs and trees. Each helps to give life to the other. Together they bear witness to the beauty of God, creator and gardener-extraordinary.”
With Carl’s love of the garden, this is a good quote to begin to reflect on the many ways in which his time as community leader has enriched, grown and deepened the gift of Daybreak.
A community leader brings to the role unique gifts that are necessary and needed, at a particular time in that community’s history. Carl has the many talents and skills that Jean identified. But specifically, for us at Daybreak, 13 years ago, Carl brought the gifts of celebration, and a deep, personal capacity for forgiveness.
These gifts fostered renewal, life and hope and were lived out with a gentle and thoughtful tenderness towards all community members, with the patience of a gardener tending a very precious plant of great value.
“In celebration there is forgiveness.” (Jean Vanier)
Henri Nouven wrote that “Celebration belongs to God’s Kingdom”.
Carl’s celebration gifts are at the heart and centre of his being. They are revealed in hospitality, welcome, faithfulness, and friendship creating links within and without community; in creative and artistic abilities producing a landscape and buildings of beauty, not only for us but as an inheritance for future generations; and in mentoring leadership by encouraging and showcasing the talents of all members, especially the core member voice.
Whether from the weekly ritual of preparing the Sunday Green House meal or welcoming the public to large theatrical galas, his care and attention to detail makes everyone feel that they belong and that their presence is important.
“Celebration expresses the true meaning of community in a concrete and tangible way.” (Jean Vanier)
Laurent Nouwen , Henri’s brother, writes of Carl “You are so much what is L’Arche Daybreak to me; your modesty and wisdom , your wit and laughter , your energy and hospitality.”
Carl’s gifts are best summed up by a Daybreak wisdom teacher, Linda Martin, “Carl, you are a good lovey man.” And our response to this can only be one of gratitude, with a quote from another wisdom teacher, Peter Porter, with a heartfelt “Thank you, Carl”.
Let us give thanks for Carl’s presence and legacy as community leader, and for his gifts of celebration, that are the song and the dance of joy and thanksgiving – creating, unifying and deepening community.
Jean Vanier – Community and Growth, The Human Future (2003), Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John
Henri Nouven – Return of the Prodigal Son