Love Born In The Gutter

Dear Inner Circle,

Often the first discovery you make when formally commencing study in Social Work is that everything you did leading up to being interested in this field was most likely “wrong” and “unprofessional.” Friendships formed over cups of tea are where trust is built, concerns shared, and actions taken but these kitchen cuppas are marked as a transgression of “professional boundaries”. The elimination of risk often overlooks the reality, that by banning true connection, people get reduced to the problems they encounter, and a “fix it” mentality soon seeps into every interaction.

I vividly recall a class where we were taught to survey, rank and evaluate every problem presented and then develop an action plan to address them one by one, until all were solved. The greatest problem of all, of course, was the model, which was ignoring systemic issues and further reinforcing the message that people were the problems.

The Wayside philosophy is unique, in that our “power” lies in our “weakness”. No one is a problem to be solved. Everyone is a person to be met. We encounter each other as whole beings, both creatively maladjusted to a society that is so often bent on distraction and destruction. Wayside will always reside in proximity to the pain of this world.

In our ability to stay true to our origins, we are not designed from the university campus down, but rather from the gutter up.  

I don’t need to tell you that we live in precarious financial times where it is easy to mistake “Staying Relevant” for “Staying Alive.” Yet as we have listened to the voices that are often our quietest, we respond boldly. The therapeutic connections we create are healing for all parties, walking together nearly always ensures we walk further. This week we are so proud to be launching two new, culturally-safe programs, each with their own designated space at Kings Cross: Wayside Chapel Healthcare and the Wayside Chapel Women’s Program.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, a reminder that we still have a long way to go to creating an equitable world for more than half of our population. Our dedicated women’s space is a beautiful safe harbour in what is often a stormy sea for women who find themselves by the Wayside. Our wonderful team of female care coordinators are attuned to the subtle signs that belie complex stories of suffering and survival, and can be there to help women piece together the next steps.

The same goes for our healthcare program. So many of our people are terrified to go into hospital, because they have seen their friends go in and never come out. Having a GP onsite who our visitors trust, who they can build a long-term relationship with, will mean we can be there to pick up the early warning signs. It will enable us to see how quickly an abrasion can be treated before it turns septic, or a  subtle lump can be detected, tested and treated before it is too late, both these examples are of two lives saved.

In no way are we suggesting that we have the solutions to the problems the current systems face, but are doing as we have always done, opening our doors and our arms, humbly giving something a go that places love and relationships at the centre, and then working outwards from there.

Often issues around healthcare and women’s safety are shrouded with shame and tarnished by previous failed “problem-solving” attempts. Connecting with kindness, grace and compassion are so vitally important in these settings and in times where care has become a business. The daunting systems we have built do not need to be navigated alone, and for that I am grateful and proud.

Thank you for being part of our precious Inner Circle.


Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
Wayside Chapel

Subscribe to Inner Circle, Wayside’s Weekly letter to our community, at the button below to have it delivered straight to your inbox every Thursday. 

Thank you for your reading. Join the conversation by posting a comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *