Dear Inner Circle,

Sitting in our café, I paid little attention to a young fellow who sat beside me until he rested his head on my shoulder. At first, I wondered if a substance was causing him to find it hard to stay awake, but it became clear that he was holding his head in a deliberate act of affection. No words had been said. Not all dialogue needs words. After what felt like some long minutes, we turned and looked into each other’s faces.Still without words, I got it. A fellow who had been doing well, was in a lot of trouble. “Can we talk?” he said as he got up and walked outside. It took a while to free myself from what I was doing, and find this fellow standing alone across the other side of Hughes Street. When the words started, they gushed. “Trouble” hardly begins to describe his situation. It was hard to understand how anyone could fit so much trouble into just a few weeks. The last time we met, he had the freedom of looking everyone in the eye. Today his eyes scanned every direction all the time, not just looking for cops; they are the least of his worries. I hugged the bloke and said, “Mate, you did this to yourself. There is no upside to this.” There was some more dialogue with few words. I hoped he could see his emptiness and my lack of words put us both together in a state of loss and grief. I hope by now he’s turned himself into the cops as he’d be a lot safer with them than just about anywhere else. My parting words were, “I’d rather be lost with you than saved without you.” We hugged once more and I pointed and said, “The police station is that way.”

I’m relieved that the same sex marriage issue is resolved. None of us emerged from this period of debate well. The process has demonstrated with new clarity for me the polarising effect of the debate. The agony of these past weeks has been to see how people clustered together to push their point. Both sides, offering opposing arguments and gathering ever greater conviction of their own rightness. “All real living is meeting” and this has been a process of watching people increasingly close down, all sides feeling victimised. Let’s have a month where every day we find something to love about those who hold a different view. Imagine spending as much time community building as we have spent dividing into the “us and them”.
Many have misread my recent email where I announced my retirement as CEO/Pastor of Wayside. I still have twelve fun-filled months ahead. I’ve given you, our inner circle, a full year’s notice. There is a good chance that I’ll still be around in some ‘grandfather’ role from 2019 and beyond. Our Board are well into a robust process of looking for my successor. Their plan is to resolve this matter and make an announcement in March 2018. That will give me at least six months to work beside the new person in a period of “hand-over”. Sorry for any misunderstanding and please save the “farewells” for yet another year and in the meantime, keep enjoying this connection we make each week.

Professor Dame Marie Bashir, our past Governor, often said to me, “My cup runneth over”. Who in this country is more loved than this dear woman? Likewise, I was captured by the awesome this week when a young woman ran to me with a face beaming with life and joy, to tell me of an error she’d made. Think about that for a minute. How much energy is wasted every day covering over errors or deflecting blame in other directions? This dear woman arrested me; she stopped me in my tracks; she caused me to forget everything that worried me only minutes before, because she knew that I would love her for learning this lesson. The joy of holding both hands, with eye contact, and hearing a sober, undisguised account of an error, affirmed that each of us took pleasure in watching a lesson learned together. Truly, my cup runneth over!

Thanks to all of you for being part of this inner circle,

Graham

Rev Graham Long
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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