Wayside Chapel has provided unconditional love, care and support for people on and around the streets of Kings Cross since 1964.
Reverend Ted Noffs opened Wayside Chapel in 1964 at a time when Kings Cross was fast becoming a mecca for disaffected youth; the home of the red light district, illegal gambling and drug culture. What started as a couple of rooms in an unassuming apartment block in Hughes Street, quickly became a place where people from all walks of life gathered to share their concerns, voice their opinions and find connection. Within a couple of years, The Wayside Chapel grew to include a chapel, coffee shop, crisis centre and the first office of the Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs. The addition of a theatre drew in people from all walks of life to watch drama, music, film and public debates. By the end of the decade, Wayside Chapel had already cemented its place in the fabric of Sydney society.
The 1980s started in a flurry of celebration but ended with great sadness. Thousands of weddings and naming ceremonies were conducted at Wayside, across Sydney and interstate but as the decade continued the strain from Ted’s ever-increasing workload starts to show. In 1987, Ted Noffs suffered a massive stroke and was unable to return to work. While the turbulent events of the 1980s caused much heartache, Wayside Chapel continued to do what it does best – serve people in need. The crisis centre received some 2000 calls a month and thousands more visited Wayside to find acceptance and support free of judgment.
The defining moment of the 1990s came as the decade drew to a close. Caught in the midst of a heroin boom, Reverend Ray Richmond, who took over Wayside earlier in the decade, was stirred to action by the countless lives lost from drug overdoses. He established a safe injecting room known as ‘The Tolerance Room’, an act of civil disobedience, which nevertheless resulted in a change in state legislation and the first medically supervised injecting centre. Despite finishing the decade with a win for the community, the 1990s were difficult for Wayside Chapel. The Noffs Family went their separate ways in 1992 and continue the work of Ted through the Ted Noffs Foundation. Ray is faced with the challenge of running an organisation that is under great financial strain. Programs are cut back and the building falls into disrepair. The once iconic charity slowly turns into a shadow of its former self.
A new decade brings new hope. Reverend Graham Long takes over in 2004 and sets about returning Wayside Chapel to its former glory. This is no easy feat. The building is falling down and funds are in desperately short supply but with the help of everyone from neighbours to politicians, $8.2 million is raised to completely redevelop Wayside Chapel. The decade is challenging but despite the financial strain Graham still manages to establish an innovative program reducing social isolation for those living with mental health issues and a community education initiative to raise awareness of the issues faced by Sydney’s marginalised community.
Wayside Chapel launches into the 2010s with a revived mission to create a community with no ‘us and them’. After five years of fundraising, an $8.2million investment and 22 months of construction, the chapel’s new building opens in May 2012 in front of a crowd of 800 people. With the new building complete, Wayside services flourish. Wayside Café, Aboriginal Program, Rooftop Garden and Day to Day Living Program are established to meet the changing needs of the community. In 2014, Wayside celebrated its 50th anniversary, pausing with deep gratitude for the past before launching with hope into the future. In 2016, Wayside Chapel officially took over management and governance of a chapel and community services centre in Bondi Beach, Norman Andrews House spreading the mission to create community with no ‘us and them’ further into the eastern suburbs. In 2018, Rev Graham Long retired as CEO and Pastor to Wayside Chapel and passed the torch over to Pastor Jon Owen, who had been with Wayside since October 2016 as Assistant Pastor and Head of People and Culture. Jon will continue to follow Graham’s legacy and lead Wayside Chapel into the future.