Dear Inner Circle,
If you want to see what happiness looks like, please drop by Wayside Chapel this week. Our buildings are awash with rainbow flags, streamers and enough bunting to get lost in. After farewelling so many long-time friends, there is no doubt it has been a difficult start to the year. Making room for celebration is as much a commitment and a discipline as it is a delight.
Moments of transformation and elation are always unselfconscious. Have you ever observed a child laughing so hard that they can’t breathe? Why do most of us lose this ability? Perhaps because by the time we’re adults, we’ve digested the message that we are our diagnosis, or we are that which makes us different, and it makes us so utterly self-conscious. Is it any wonder that so many people feel they can only enjoy themselves if they numb these messages with synthetic substitutes to escape their prison cells of isolation?
There is a path less travelled, and that is to find yourself welcomed by a community where you aren’t a problem to be solved but a person to be met. Where you feel the freedom of being amongst friends, where there is no judgment. We can then move from isolation to participation, with the question changing from “Who do I need to be here?” to “How can I contribute?” This beautiful space doesn’t hide who you are, but rather integrates into the larger context of our shared humanity.
At Wayside we are proudly celebrating the super-sized Mardi Gras and Sydney World Pride this month. Over a decade ago, before joining Wayside, I marched in the Mardi Gras with a group known as “100 Revs” – where 100 ministers marched in black, carrying a banner across which the words were written “Sorry.” It was a solemn acknowledgement of the pain and suffering that organised religion has caused the LGBTQIA+ community. As we marched some in the crowd turned away, others clapped and some wept and thanked us. This year I won’t be marching solemnly, instead, despite my two left feet, I will be dancing amongst a group of friends on the Wayside float to the tune of Vanessa Amorosi’s Absolutely Everybody. If you’re watching the parade on Saturday, we’re float number 31, and set out at about 8pm. Just look for the big heart!
Communal singing is important. It binds hearts together. You only have to witness the power of Liverpool fans singing You’ll Never Walk Alone to hear the truth of this. We don’t just work for a better a world, we sing it into existence. On Tuesday, we had a pop-up Mardi Gras choir belting out tunes and dancing on the deck. Surrounded by our gender-diverse visitors and staff, it was a moment full of laughter and joy. Our commitment to sharing unconditional love with all, to creating a place where “absolutely everybody” is welcome isn’t always easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it. But whenever we reach that fork in the road, we boldly dance together down the path less travelled, and this time, it is full of glitter and sequins.
Thank you for being part of our precious Inner Circle.
Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
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