by Matthew Floding, Director of Ministerial Formation, Duke Divinity School
Friendship House is a residential ministerial formation opportunity at Duke Divinity School, Vanderbilt Divinity School and Western Theological Seminary (MI). In each of these, divinity or seminary students live in intentional community with persons with an intellectual or developmental disability. Our life is ordered around the community building blocks Jean Vanier articulated (founder of L'Arche communities), Eat Together, Pray Together, Celebrate Together!
We obviously like to eat together. We were especially grateful to host Dean Elaine Heath recently on one of the Sunday evenings when the residents of Friendship House gather for a shared meal. It always calls to mind for us the Table of God's hospitality where all are welcome without respect to ability.
We pray together. Relationships in Friendship House are transformational. Each of us can build up defenses. A return to innocent vulnerability with each other and God is hard. But, as one student shared, "I've experienced unconditional love and acceptance from my friend and roommate. I'm beginning to understand God's unconditional love and acceptance in a whole new way." Whether shared concerns and prayer times after a communal meal, writing our own "Psalm 151" based on reflections on God's goodness during the past week, or Compline on a designated night of the week, prayer becomes a habit of honest communion with God. Sometimes it's even translated into song.
Friendship House celebrates together! Celebration happens because Friendship House is a place of deep belonging in which each person, regardless of ability, is seen and recognized as a gift.
Taken altogether, Friendship House becomes a place of flourishing because the unique capabilities of each member are recognized, affirmed and celebrated. It is the kind of community where we learn the truth of our baptism:
For you Jesus Christ came into the world;
for you he died and for you he conquered death;
All this he did for you, little one,
though you know nothing of it as yet.
We love because God first loved us.
Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:
Which is God calling you to experience more of in the coming year: Eating together, Praying together or Celebrating together?