Dear Inner Circle,
Wayside Chapel’s legacy comes from the “gutter up” rather than the “university down”. From the moment our doors opened we were overwhelmed by people who had been shunned by society and had nowhere else to turn. People facing isolation and addiction finally had somewhere to seek acceptance and support. When members of the Aboriginal community approached Wayside speaking of racism in the 1960s, the Freedom Rides, led by Charles Perkins, soon left from our doorsteps to tour through small regional towns in NSW, as a peaceful protest against discrimination. When heroin hit the streets and people were passing out or worse nearby, the Tolerance Room opened at Wayside and eventually led to the first medically-supervised injecting centre. When everything began shutting down two years ago when the pandemic kicked off, we not only stayed open but hit the streets taking all our love and care to where it was most needed.
Anyone can be very busy running an ambulance service at the bottom of a cliff and you will get a lot of adulation for doing so, but the moment you stop and head to the top of the cliff to ask why people are falling off it in the first place you cause a commotion and get accused of being an iconoclast. Everyone who has held a leadership position here has been accused of disrupting what appears to be “the normal order of events” and our city is better off for it.
Our gift to history is not just our care of those who fall through the cracks. In the 1960s and 1970s, Wayside confronted the limitations of marriage norms. Nowadays, it no longer means much to join together a Catholic and a Protestant, or someone who has been divorced, but it wasn’t all that long ago that it was a cultural taboo that we snubbed our noses at. Love is love and its’ litmus test is “does it build us up and weave our hearts closer together?” Couples desperate to marry but unable to do so in every other church flocked to Wayside in the early days to declare their love in our little Kings Cross chapel. Couples no longer face the hurdles of yesteryear, but I’m pleased to say they still flock to Wayside to marry because they believe in our mission of creating community with ‘no us and them’. This weekend I will be conducting a wedding, which, if we counted, it would likely be over the 50,000th one conducted by Wayside Chapel. To be a minister at the Wayside is to have the regular privilege of conducting and celebrating weddings. There have been so many over the years that a play has been written called “Wayside Bride”. All of them are precious, unique and a celebration of the joy that life can bring, often in the most unexpected of ways.
Thanks for being part of our precious Inner Circle,
Rev. Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
PS. Celebrating Wayside Chapel’s rich heritage of performing weddings and as a place of love, acceptance and diversity, Belvoir St Theatre are offering our Inner Circle the following special offers to see Alana Valentine’s new play “Wayside Bride”:
To receive $10 discount on Adult tickets across the season click here.
To buy $30 tickets for 26 April performance (hurry, offer is limited) click here.