Somethings change. Some stay the same.

Dear Inner Circle,

Lying at the heart of this season is a challenge to explore the unknown, which is always a daring and risky adventure. The programs we run at Wayside Chapel arise from this very place, from a place that doesn’t fear “death”, because, as nature teaches us, this is a part of the cycle that allows new life to emerge. So Wayside is and always will be a bold experiment, being designed from the gutter up rather than the university down. From this vantage point a vision is born, and an invitation is issued to join in on the whispers that emerge from our hearts. It isn’t a call for everyone and often flies in the face of “conventional wisdom”, but it can make all the difference.

The Wingspan Project, our youth employment pathways program, and the opening of our social enterprise, the Heart Cafe in Bondi Beach, was one such endeavour. For four years we have invested love and belief in the lives of over 70 young adults, providing them with the support and the opportunity to turn their lives around. In this time, the young adults formed a community, together with the dedicated staff of Wayside, and stepped up to the challenges and expectations of work. And they worked alongside us, as staff within our social enterprises, and in that, they led us forward and showed us a whole new way of creating a community of no “us and them”.

We have witnessed life-changing work in this time. But during those years we have also come to the increasing realisation that employment pathways are a fundamentally different way of interacting with the community than the rest of Wayside. With that, comes significant complexity, particularly in these undeniably tough economic times.
After four years, where we gave it our all, we’ve decided to wind down the Wingspan Project and to close the Heart Cafe by June 2023. As hard as it is, we know in our hearts and heads it is the right decision. We will of course honour our commitments to the 28 young adults currently in the program and will continue to support them in their employment journeys through our op shops, community cafes and beyond.

This change will allow us to focus on our core work of drawing people out of social isolation and inviting them into the healing place of community where they can access essential support and connection at our centres in Kings Cross and Bondi Beach. The recent expansion of these programs to include a healthcare service and dedicated women’s space means we’re now also providing access to free, equitable healthcare and a safe place for women impacted by family violence.

To all of you who have walked with us, I extend my personal thanks for the love and belief you poured directly into the lives of all the Wingspan participants. To the staff and volunteers who have ceaselessly given themselves to serve, I thank you. And to every one of the young adults, we’re grateful. We thank you for believing in Wingspan and, through your honesty and feedback, making the program what it was. Thank you for trusting our team, for having the courage to share with us your inner world and your dreams for the future, and for grabbing the opportunity of Wingspan with both hands.

As for the Heart Cafe, it has for many people been the ‘heart of Bondi’, and the place where connections have formed and grown wings. It has also been the place where people have chosen again and again, with every coffee and each plate of smashed avo, to show their care for those most vulnerable in our community.

We will always continue to take bold risks like these, knowing that if we change just one life, then we honour the spirit of the exploration of the unknown, and that we are a part of living forward into an ever changing and increasingly complex world. We know that disconnection is not our destiny, and we are more focused than ever on providing opportunities for people from all walks of life to find love, support and connection.

Thank you for being part of our Inner Circle,


Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
Wayside Chapel

Subscribe to Inner Circle, Wayside’s Weekly letter to our community, at the button below to have it delivered straight to your inbox every Thursday. 

Thank you for your reading. Join the conversation by posting a comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *