One and Free

Dear Inner Circle,

Welcome back for another year. Thank you for the outpouring of love and support for all of our wonderful people at Wayside Chapel who have kept our doors open every single day. Consider that for a moment, as wave after wave of infection swept through our city, our team of frontline workers remained steadfast in their response. What an amazing accomplishment of will and tireless commitment – words which are synonymous with ‘love.’ Love that is served up every day for those on our streets or perilously close to them.

Can you believe that this week marks exactly two years since Australia recorded our first case of COVID-19? During this wave, many of us have been affected like never before. Family Christmas gatherings and holidays were cancelled, and people were isolated from family and friends en-masse. It felt like a miracle that Wayside Chapel’s Christmas Day Street Picnic could go ahead. With all the COVID-19 precautions in place, we made sure that no-one was lonely or hungry on Christmas Day. At the end of the day, as the street was being swept and the marquees were getting packed down, a young man made his way over to a group of staff who were just about to finish their shift. The look on his face when he realised the event was over was heartbreaking. The young man had been turned away from his family Christmas and had spent the day wandering the streets before finding his way to Wayside Chapel. Our staff rallied around him, rustling up a meal, and showering him with kindness and a dose of Christmas joy. Nothing can fully ease the pain of family rejection, but he walked away from Wayside that afternoon with a gentle smile and a heart that was a little less lonely. It reminded me that whilst we have all experienced feelings of isolation and disconnection during this time of Coronavirus, it is the epidemic of loneliness that profoundly affects the majority of people who seek our help every day.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.” We can also hold the view that as a nation we can be deeply proud of our achievements and also acknowledge that there is much work that remains to be done.

Years ago, as a green youth worker, I remember walking down the street with some local kids to grab an icy pole in the scorching western Sydney summer heat when we were stopped by some police officers who asked where we were headed and what our intentions were. We were stunned initially into silence by this line of questioning. Our names were then demanded of us and when one young lad offered it, a mate of his punched his arm and whispered, “Why’d you give him your real name for!?” The tension grew as one of the police officers responded, “Yeah, we know your family and your kind…” I’d like to tell you that I leapt forward to defend this young and proud Aboriginal kid, but I was deflated at the realisation that at the time it wouldn’t make a difference. As I put my arm around the slumped shoulders of his broken heart, from that moment a resolve was steeled in my heart to be a part of something new and something better.

Only when we as a country can say with pride that we love the people of t​his land, we’ll all be able to sing together, “for we are one and free.” Do I love this country? You bet I do. Can we work to make it better? You bet we can. Perhaps if we can do that we can finally have a measured conversation about our First Nations people as well as those who flee to our shores seeking refuge. Perhaps I am just a dreamer, but maybe you are too. The ability to hold a paradox isn’t so much a mark of intelligence as it is a hallmark of our humanity and a way we can dream up a new future for us all.

Thanks for being a part of our Inner Circle,


Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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One Response

  1. I am so grateful for the gift of your wonderful words. I’m so proud to be a member of your Inner Circle. Thank you💖

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