It’s a Sunday afternoon and a conglomeration of instruments and voices are performing “Wild Thing” by The Troggs. Jessica Lyons has invited anyone who enjoys music to join in recreating classic tunes, and her invitation is clear: this is a jam for all people, those with and without disabilities.

Monthly Band Jam Afternoons

A ministry of L’Arche, an international organisation that seeks to create communities in which those with and without disabilities can share life together, Miss Lyons – who attends St George’s, Paddington – works with a team of volunteers to host monthly band jam afternoons.

“Everyone just loves music, and everyone can be involved,” says Miss Lyons, who works as a high school music teacher during the week.

“It’s not just about people with disabilities making music, it’s about a broader community coming together and sharing in music together.”

Although the jam sessions just started in this format two months ago, making music has long been a priority for those in L’Arche communities. “A number of members are non-verbal, they can’t sing lyrics but they are very involved in music,” she says. “You see them get so excited.”

More meaningful than the music

More meaningful than the music, however, is sharing life together.

“One of the wonderful things about hanging out with people with intellectual disabilities is that they’re so honest,” Miss Lyons says. “The only thing they care about is that you’re there. When we are together sharing a meal, I’m sharing the meal with someone who sees me as another person and doesn’t give two hoots about whether I’m excelling at my job. They just care that I’m a person there sharing that moment with them. This shows me what love is.”

She has personally witnessed this in her own family, as she has an uncle living with intellectual disabilities. “After my aunt passed away, I became aware of just how lonely he was feeling with no other support network,” she says. “I would invite him along to events with my friends, and he’d just come along and he loved it. He’s a wonderful, friendly, extroverted person and it was a joy to watch him engage and build friendships.”

READ NEXT: With an eye to spreading the blessings God has given, CityAlight – the music ministry of St Paul’s, Castle Hill – has created a series of videos about their most popular songs.

Miss Lyons hopes the jam sessions build a stronger community, allow more friendships to grow and help others to see the gifts and insights that people with intellectual disabilities bring.  

“They show me different qualities of faith without being able to articulate them,” 

“We run from vulnerability, everything in us tries to. Everything we do is so efficient, it’s about getting things done and climbing the ladder. But we are all going to be disabled – we are born in need and we die needing people. It’s only in this middle bit that we think we are able, but we are completely reliant on God and on the communities we are in. They teach me to remember that vulnerability and fragility is not something to be ashamed of, but that it’s core to being Christian and human.”