Guided by Voices

Dear Inner Circle,

There really is a lot of laughter to go around, even in the bleakest of circumstances. Our little chapel gatherings are no exception having developed a tradition of “heckling the Rev” long before my arrival here. Sadly I never met the woman who was affectionately nicknamed “St. Interruptus”. I suspect she began it all when once my predecessor had checked in mid talk, “Are you with me or am I boring you?” To which she didn’t miss a beat, “Boring us? That’s your job!” Just last week we were discussing forms that prayer and meditation can take. One involves allowing enough space to be able to, in the midst of the usually ceaseless inner monologue, invite an-Other dialogue in. A man who usually sits silently with a bowed head, looked up with a spark of recognition and a glint in his eye, “I must be super spiritual! There are least of four other voices going on in here!” He winked tapping the top of his head. Hearing him talk was a rare gift and his quick-witted quip had us all in stitches. Me, as per usual completely losing my train of thought, which seemed far less important than being present to the beauty of the shared moment his candour had created. 

Thankfully it appears that the latest wave, or outbreak or whatever we call it nowadays seems to be subsiding in Sydney and we can slowly begin to re-extend our hours of operation. Our centres matter for many reasons, one of which is that they offer a “third space” – not your place, not mine, but a space in which we have a contribution to make. The loneliness that has sunk deep into many hearts through lockdown was in large part driven by the lack of spaces like these, which has led to a deep sense of anonymity and a feeling that at any moment one could disappear and who would know?

The desire for a peaceful world needs more third spaces, especially ones that aren’t commercialised or homogenised by ideology or any other marker of difference between people. At Wayside we are driven by the belief that we are all transformed in the presence of images that are different from ourselves. Peace isn’t about the absence of conflict, but rather by the presence of a justice that moves us out and beyond our all too narrow ideas of right and wrong, through encounters with those different from us. The price of a false peace is paid in the silence of a minority. Just ask those involved with movements like the 78ers, the civil rights movement or the Freedom Rides, who could no longer remain silent. I encourage you to research them if they are unfamiliar. They disrupted a peace to bring us justice, many at great personal cost. To create more spaces where voices can be heard that disrupt our “peace” is to take seriously their struggles. To listen now to our queer community members, or any other minority, who through their courage are helping us re-dream the world anew is also to honour their legacy. Our world needs us all to change and change again, and that means listening in order to be guided by voices other than our own.

I reckon that’s a pretty good form of prayer, our precious Inner Circle. 


Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
Wayside Chapel 

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