Dear Inner Circle,

A woman who spent the better part of her life staring into a bottle with no desire to be sober, is now alcohol-free. She’s working full-time while studying to become a childcare worker. Her story is not about the triumph of self-determination although it has involved plenty of grit and persistence. It is not a story about some hero with some special insight who swoops in to save the day. This story began with a glance. Someone looked and recognised beauty. Someone gazed and was captured by the awesome. Most people saw only a problem to be fixed but someone saw a person to be met. It was the beginning of a journey where slowly and unromantically she began to believe in her own future. Many come here to buy food they can afford and they get a bargain. Many come here to enrol in a program and they learn some skills. Many get lucky, but some get life.

A living, breathing inspiration arrived last week, loaded with a donation of much-needed supplies for our Community Services Centre. She also brought along her 92-year- old mum in and they browsed in our op shop. As they were leaving, one of our visitors called out, “Hey you, look after that old lady!“ It was a fleeting moment and easy to miss, but for a split second hat old lady was everyone’s mum and everyone’s Grandma. All she did was follow her daughter up the road but that was all it took to deeply touch some of our people.

Most people come into Wayside with an idea of how they can help meet the needs of other people and soon realise there are some needs that we all share. Sometimes I’m asked about the foundational beliefs that guide Wayside. Surprisingly perhaps, I have little interest in what people believe. At Wayside, we value the lived experience over anything that can be articulated on a wall or in a book on the library shelf. I couldn’t be less interested in what particular cognitive propositions people might hold. I’m only interested in a truth that is lived. If I can’t point to it in a lived community, then I don’t care what the posters or books say. It is surprising how often we look to an “expert”, and miss the person right before us. Sometimes it’s the people who believe different things or who believe no things who turn out to be our best teachers. If we can look beyond the container we might realise it’s the contents that matter.

Who in this world does Valentine’s Day like Wayside? We had such fun and people from all over Sydney responded by helping us with donations to maintain our supply of undies. Because, what says, “I love you” better than a clean pair of undies? Thank you so much for your support. One inspiring couple decided that rather than buy things for each other, they’d host a dinner at Wayside for our whole community. Together they sacrificed for the sake of others. What a night! Such joy! Our hall was crammed with full bellies and full hearts. Plenty of hugs were shared and some even serenaded their true love or in some cases, total strangers! It was just an extraordinary night. Someone sang Edelweiss with a deep sense of love and an unabashed lack of professional music training. It didn’t seem to matter.

After a well-deserved holiday, Rev Graham Long is back at Wayside! Graham is returning in a part-time capacity as Pastor Emeritus, or, as he prefers to be known, Wayside’s official ‘Grandfather’. Listeners of James Valentine’s radio show on ABC 702 Sydney will remember how Graham appeared on the show countless times over the last ten years when he was CEO and Pastor. If you’ve been missing Graham and James’ conversations, I’m happy to announce that the pair have reunited for a very special event called The Long View. This three-part speaker series will take place over three consecutive Mondays in March, where each week Graham and James will be joined by a different distinguished guest, discussing compassion, character, community and all things that matter. We’d love for you to join us. For all the information and to buy tickets, click here.

Thanks for being part of our inner circle,


Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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