New Year’s Day, 1972. It’s 8 o’clock in the evening. The snow is falling on Canterbury Cathedral as Ann Morgan, together with her husband Geoffrey and friend Therese Vanier, explains to Archbishop Michael Ramsey why they want his help.  

They are looking for some property: a house where people with learning disabilities can live, alongside people who will share their life and support them – a home to form the heart of a little community. “You’re attempting something incredibly difficult,” says the Archbishop. “From what you’ve told me, this really is work that you must try to undertake. It’s the work of God.” 

Two years later, on 24 January 1974, Bill Armstrong, John Boorman and David Turnham move into the Old Rectory in Barfrestone, on the outskirts of Canterbury, known thereafter as Little Ewell. Condemned because of their learning disabilities to lead lonely lives, locked away in Eastry Hospital, these three men have just been released. A community begins. They will be the ones who create it. 

20th January 2024. The crisp winter sun glints off the spire of the Cathedral. Ann is here again. She has travelled down from Scotland to join two hundred and thirty people in the Cathedral Crypt. People with and without learning disabilities, friends and families, from across the country, across the generations.  

They are here to celebrate – to laugh and sing and dance – to give thanks for L’Arche in Canterbury, for the thousands of people who have grown and transformed it, who have grown and been transformed by it.  

In the centre of the Crypt, a table is set. Bread is brought up and broken. Tea is prepared, a cake is cut. People are singing: 

Round the table, round the table,  
All are welcome, all is shared. 
Bread is broken, stories spoken. 
Round the table, friends are made.                           

A party in a crypt. The symbol of lives broken and renewed, reborn, shared and celebrated.  

Happy 50th Birthday L’Arche Kent.