Dear Inner Circle,
Hospitality is at the heart of all we do. It naturally extends beyond those we know and is issued as an expression of welcome and protection for the “stranger”. This creates a space where the stranger can enter and become a friend, instead of an enemy. This is in no way an attempt to change people but to offer them space where change can take place. It also holds a space open, into which the free exchange of gifts can occur. We give and we receive, we contribute, and we also listen and learn, and we all walk away enriched and nourished. It isn’t in any way a demand to emulate the lifestyle of the host, but the chance for the guest to find their own path forward where they can share their own precious gifts.
This emphasises the importance of spaces. There is no such thing as a neutral space, in fact, as Aristotle once observed, “nature abhors a vacuum”. As people enter Wayside, it is our privilege to welcome them and offer them a seat at our table and give them the opportunity to participate, if they wish. The first gifts offered are from us as the host, this can be a smile or a meal, or the opportunity to simply be alone, in a place where their minds can take a moment to catch up to what is going on in their hearts. As a friend called it, “Sometimes, Rev, it’s important that you can just sit with us and shoot the s*&t.”
Our Valentine’s Day lunch was one such opportunity. Inside the beautifully decorated community hall, the space was hosted by Emma Alberici, who made sure she went around to every table to greet and welcome our guests, before sharing some jokes that helped everyone feel right at home. So comfortable in fact that one visitor got up on the microphone and asked his beloved to marry him (yet again, and yet again she said no), while another guest got up and sang some classic love songs by Whitney Houston and Lionel Ritchie in dedication to her sons. I overheard a visitor turn to the person next to him and say with so much gratitude, “thank you for your friendship”. Spaces like this are a deep gift, because as we are reminded by the author Francis Weller, “We need to create circles of welcome in our lives in order to keep leaning into the world.”
Thank you, Inner Circle, for all your support. You showed so much generosity in the lead up to Valentine’s Day, and I’m grateful for how you came together to share the love with our visitors. It’s your kindness that enables us to keep on leaning in, so we can create these spaces for healing, especially when the world darkens for many people in our beautiful community.
Thank you for being part of our Inner Circle.
Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
P.S Thanks again to everyone who donated to our Valentine’s Day campaign. If you haven’t yet had the chance, we still need to raise $54,104 to hit our target and be able to provide clean undies, socks and toiletries to the most vulnerable people in our community this year. Click here to donate now.
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