A Practical-Theological Phenomenology of Joy: Learning from L’Arche

Armand Leon Van Ommen* (Corresponding Author), Julie Land

*Corresponding author for this work

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In recent years joy has received renewed attention as a central theological concept. However, voices from lived experience are largely lacking in this discussion. This article studies the question what joy looks like and what its essence is in one particular exemplar of joy, i.e. the L’Arche communities. Based on fieldwork, which included participant observation and interviews in four L’Arche communities, as well as an interview with the founder of L’Arche, Jean Vanier, this article proposes a practical-theological phenomenology of joy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-299
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Disability & Religion
Issue number3
Early online date10 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

This publication was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.
I am grateful for the L’Arche communities in Inverness (now Highlands), Manchester, Trosly and Kenya for welcoming me in their communities and participating in this project. I have learned much more from them than any academic article can ever express.


  • Joy
  • L’Arche
  • Jean Vanier
  • Henri Nouwen
  • Disability
  • Community


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