Dear Inner Circle,
It isn’t every day that you have conversations with people that you know will be your last. Well yesterday I had three of them. One that I want to tell you about was with a brave man who, years ago, found his heart’s home in Darlinghurst, living with the love of his life. Each time he opened his door he was filled with two opposing emotions, the first was love – a deep, resonate love for this vibrant community and the way it embraced people from all walks of life. The second was hate, kindled by seeing the raw pain and suffering of others, a hatred towards a world that sometimes cruelly tricks people into believing that they can take by force what can only be given.
His life as a creative eventually led him to Wayside through an opportunity to volunteer. Here, in a moment of inspired clarity, he and a small team conceived the image that would become our emblem, and the motto that would be our guiding principle: Love Over Hate. Vale, Geoff. Thank you, not just for the enduring symbol you’ve given us, but for your life.
Speaking of Wayside royalty, this week we gathered in the chapel to farewell Birdie, a very special member of our community. Tears of laughter streamed down our faces as stories of his exploits were shared, each tale more amusing (and crude) than the last. Often referred to as the mascot of Wayside, Birdie was unapologetic and uninhibited, embodying our spirit of inclusivity. Most often found chilling in the Chapel, or snatching food from friends in the cafe, this was a guy who when he gave you a kiss, it was like he was about to rip your face off. The love was real! At the memorial, people spoke of the lessons Birdie taught them – of unconditional love and the importance of accepting people with all their flaws. His presence at Wayside was a reminder that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve come from, you belong here.
As we took a moment to prepare our hearts to say goodbye to our old mate, Birdie, a poignant question arose about whether dogs go to a different heaven. Someone who once rescued a dog after its owner died unexpectedly confided to the group: “Everyone thought that I was saving him, but truth be told, he saved me.” Well, that’s good enough for me.
Thank you for being part of our Inner Circle.
Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
P.S I had the privilege of sitting down with Richard Fidler this week on ABC Conversations. AirDrop yourself into a story about about radical love, and of course Wayside.