Dear Inner Circle,
One of the most noticeable cultural contrasts growing up in Australia but coming from Malaysia was around food. My grandmother always had a big pot of Sambal Sotong or Kicap Chicken simmering away in the kitchen and when friends would come over they would peer into it and ask impolitely, “Who is this all for? You don’t need that much!” This was sometimes contrasted with being over at a friend’s place and being told, “You can’t stay for dinner, I didn’t pull out enough food.” In our culture, as in many, the greeting isn’t “How are you?” it is, “Have you eaten?” Today we are open and often on the public holiday we are the only place that is, as other places take a well-earned break. This often means a bump in numbers, so it quite a beautiful sight to behold our kitchen team eagerly preparing extra in anticipation. Hospitality truly is at the heart of all we do, as there is nothing so welcoming as turning up somewhere for the first time to discover an extra bowl at the ready for you. It is food for the soul.
Sometimes the question gets asked of us, “What proportion of your work is sacred, and what is secular?” To which the answer is a cheeky, “Yes, it’s 100% of both, all at the same time!” On Monday we were again treated to classical music in our chapel from the Phoenix Collective. People who sat together to hear classical music alongside Daft Punk were from all walks of life – it truly was music for the people, set in a place that knows how to hold space for heartache and healing. As if to reinforce this point, as we were being lifted by Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.6, we were accompanied by someone loudly ordering at our Community Cafe, “Give us these sausage rolls, love, two for me, and one for my dog, they’re f&#*n’ delicious!” It never ceases to be a source of amusement when people relax enough to let down their guard and drop a few expletives into our conversations. The one that begins with “f” is affectionately known as the “Wayside Adjective.” Often used as a sign of frustration, we like it when it expresses ease and comfort.
We generally tend to treat others the way we have been treated, don’t we? This week one of our amazing staff members told us the most beautiful story. She was rushing to Wayside through Springfield Gardens when she stumbled across an injured ibis that had its wings spread out and was finding it difficult to lift its head off the ground. The ibis’ friends were huddled around to provide protection from the dogs being walked in the park and other birds that were attacking it. Our staff member looked for help and made eye contact with a man that was having a cigarette. He came over and started talking about how they could help the ibis. Before too long, they fell into a conversation on other matters, and when he found out that she worked at Wayside Chapel his face lit up. He spoke of how he had been coming in for some support and was regularly stopping by to grab a meal. He talked about our amazing chef and spoke so highly of the person who had supported him to secure some accommodation. He admitted that he was starting to feel like he had some stability in his life once again. After sharing this precious moment, they turned their attention back to the ibis, wrapping it in a towel and carrying it to a local vet for care. Before parting, she mentioned that a community lunch was happening at Wayside that day. When he turned up to the lunch, he shared with everyone at his table the story of the ibis, which was really a tale of love that can restore hearts.
Last Sunday we sang a very traditional Hymn that began with “Cheer, cheer, the Red and White!” Whichever team you follow, I hope you have a winning weekend, and if you’re up for a different type of fitness challenge, I’m looking for a couple more friends to join me on the Long Walk Home in October. There are only a few spots left, and I’d love them to go to my Inner Circle.
Thank you for being part of my Inner Circle,
Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor