This week our community hall played host to an art exhibition, proudly displaying works from local artists in our community, many of whom hold lived experience of rejection and isolation. One artist strode up, proudly showing off her work. She didn’t recognise us but we recognised her. A few years ago we met a different person, a frightened, timid woman who had shyly asked what Wayside was all about, right in the middle of our Christmas Day Street Party. She was so withdrawn and fragile having just moved into a refuge to escape violence of an indescribable kind. She had not been allowed to leave her house for years and was only just learning how to walk new streets when she stumbled right into the middle of our controlled chaos. “This is love dressed up in party mode. You are welcome to come and dance your troubles away!” I yelled, unaware of her story. Then as if to emphasise that point, one of our Wayside angels who was busy spreading love and glitter all over the place, walked up to her, gave her a huge hug and yelled “Merry Christmas!!!!! WOOHOOO!!!” She had a little inkling as to what that moment meant for this woman. To see her transform from someone beset by doubts as to her own worth, into a woman not just standing tall and proud, but with a face beaming with pride was a moment to remind us again of the power of love – with a little glitter thrown in.
Inclusion gently entreats our intention. It simply isn’t enough to place a sign above a door stating “Anyone Is Welcome”, because not everyone will walk through it. It takes invitation and attention to detail to curate a space of safety for hospitality and reception. No matter how much we tell people it’s OK they will only feel safe when they enter a place where they are mirrored. Any act of cognition is re-cognition. We work hard to create a free space where strangers can enter and become friends. We never seek to change anyone, but offer them a space where change can take place. This is the kind of table we prepare with love, not the kind that might have been flipped over in a temple.
This week we have hosted a number of Mardi Gras events for our community, opening a space to celebrate life together. Bible college never really prepared me to be dressed up as a unicorn in a Mardi Gras fashion parade, but I have rarely experienced a moment of greater joy than to be in a room filled with love, inclusivity, joy and laughter, that so often looks out onto a world filled with scorn and rejection.
Sometimes, you’ve just gotta throw a little glitter at life.
Thanks for being with us, our colourful Inner
Pastor & CEO