Daybreak, Henri Nouwen, and Me Pt 5

This is part 5 of 7 of a sermon given 4/11/15 at Westminster Church in New Brighton, PA. In it, I share about my recent trip to L’Arche Daybreak in Canada to research author Henri Nouwen. The sermon can be heard on itunes or at

After dinner in each house, a candle was lit and everyone held hands. One person would start and then everyone around the table prayed for whoever they wanted to. Nothing was hurried. Everyone was important.

I wondered how Henri Nouwen must have lived in the tension of pace and priorities. While he lived at Daybreak he wrote, taught, and travelled globally and then returned to the pace of Daybreak. It must have been so jarring.

On Friday I got to spend some time at The Woodery. This wood shop is actually a business that makes wooden ground stakes for construction companies and small wooden wheels for craft sets. It may sound dangerous for disabled people to work in a wood shop, but, I assure you, it was well supervised and very safe. I worked with a man named Robin to cut boards throughout the day. For the saw to cut the boards, we both had to press a button with each hand several feet away from the saw.

I was happy after a couple of days of rest and study to get some manual labor done. I thought I was taking my time, but I was told right away that I needed to slow down even more. In fact, in the afternoon I was told that I was not allowed to finish the job I was working on. If I finished cutting the stakes that I had then they were going to have to take stakes away from the man who was sharpening the stakes. It always bothered him when his stacks were taken away, so I had to be sure that did not happen. This has to be the only time I was told not to finish a job.

Fridays at The Woodery are a special day. On Fridays that staff all go to a local restaurant called Joe’s Burgers. When they walk in they do not even have to order food because the restaurant knows what everyone gets. Before we went to Joe’s Burgers, the staff went through their rules for Joe’s Burgers with the core members. Each seemed to have experience behind them—no fighting, no yelling, no talking to people we do not know, no eating other people’s food… One rule, however was emphasized above all other. The rule, and I quote, “No Farting.” Apparently The Woodery had been cleared out on more than one Friday afternoon from the effects of a trip to Joe’s Burgers. I must say that I personally felt the need for this rule that afternoon, but I say proudly that I did not break the rule.

That Friday night the Daybreak community gathered for worship. A number of other people from the local area joined as well. Some just liked to worship there. Others had children with special needs who had trouble going to other churches because of the noises they made or their appearance. I read the Psalm for the night as we sang and prayed. The sermon was given by the head of worship and by John who now had my business card in his collection.

After worship, I got in my car and drove late at night to Erie to be with my family and to head the rest of the way home the next day. I brought back with me a few crosses that I bought at the craft studio. Several of them had been made by people I had met during my visit.


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