Outrageous Grace

Dear Inner Circle,

Our hearts are heavy as we continue to mourn the tragic events that unfolded this weekend at Westfield, Bondi Junction, and across our city. The senseless loss of lives in such a familiar setting strikes deep at our sense of security. All of us go shopping. We can’t bear to think that our loved ones might be unsafe when they go shopping. As we grapple with grief and anger, we soon enough look for someone to blame, yet, as I was recently reminded, most anger is simply unprocessed sadness.

It’s a moment for profound sadness for the lives pointlessly taken and for those still bravely battling for recovery in hospital. When it settles, we will also realise that one of the lives lost that day was the man with the knife. If only we had found a way to extend compassion and care for him before this tragedy occurred; unfortunately, our medical system excels in many areas, but mental health is often overlooked as “just too hard.” Today I want to celebrate the tireless efforts of the frontline staff at Wayside and the many community groups who work to uplift those who feel lost and alone. It takes courage to work in this space. Our mission is the biggest and hairiest of human adventures. We throw ourselves into our task because it is right – not for any round of applause. We do it whether we win, lose or draw. Our societal culture creates people as isolated individuals, and we swim against the tide as we seek to create connected people. Connected people are healthy people. Our vision of no ‘us and them’ is one of outrageous grace, and our work is of increasing importance with each passing day.

In times like these, it’s crucial that we prioritise caring for one another. As a community, let’s take the time to listen, affirm and support each other through these difficult weeks. Could I be so bold as to suggest taking a small act of self-care? Turn off the news for a hot minute. I guarantee the over-analysis will cause paralysis of the heart.

While we won’t think our way to a better way of living, we can live our way to a better mindset. On Tuesday about 50 people gathered in our community hall for Karaoke Night, a riotous celebration of the harmony of life, in the pitch of Wayside – meaning that tonality was optional, but frivolity and love abounded. From my opening duet of AC/DCs “TNT” to Whitney’s “I will always love you,” the evening was a remedy for our souls. The night ended with a powerful gospel song belted out by an ordained minister, accompanied by the dancing of one of our most talented visitors, a trans-woman. Normally she sits and talk to herself, but that night her majestic movements spoke to our hearts. Everyone was enthralled, and in a tiny corner of a dark world, a little light broke through. As the new world being danced and sung into existence swelled my heart, my duet partner from earlier in the night looked over, crossed his arms, and uttered, “Hey buddy, I carried you through that song, no offence, but you were crap.” Whether he carried the tune or not, one thing’s for sure — my heart had been carried across a dark river, and my smug mate indeed was the ferryman.

Inner Circle, thank you for your dedication to love, even amidst times of adversity and sorrow.


Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
Wayside Chapel

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