Dear Inner Circle,

Thank you all for the waves of love that have poured in since yesterday’s announcement about the positive COVID case in our community. We are on track to be open again on Monday. From their homes, our remote care coordination teams are doing everything to keep reaching out to those whom we are still connected with, but we do look forward to the moment when our doors re-open. Wayside’s history is steeped in flipping society’s script, showing that life can be found in the most unexpected of places amongst the most unexpected of people, and that our most vulnerable are in fact our most valuable. It is these people who invite us to discover new horizons of possibility for the future of humanity. This Delta strain is no joke and it is moving through the community rapidly. It does not discriminate on the basis of social standing, and my heart breaks now that it has reached the streets and it is affecting those who rely on them ​for their very survival. If you are the praying type, now is the time. We have worked hard with others to get as many people vaccinated as possible, however, it appears that the first ones who are testing positive are not. We don’t like the word “race”, but it certainly feels like one now, and the race is against death. Two young people who were in youth clubs that I had assisted with previously in Mt Druitt, Western Sydney, have died this week from COVID-19.

After the deep clean at Wayside Chapel yesterday, I snuck in and sat in our empty building for a moment, lit a candle and called to mind all of the people we have farewelled in this place over the years. A sea of faces flashed past and a stream of tears flowed. Then, quite unexpectedly, a flood of hilarious memories arrived. Once, as a nervous beginner at Wayside’s Sunday service, I looked to Graham Long, he nodded and said, “You’ve got this.” At the time I thought I had no clue of what “this” was, and what apparently I “had”. Nervously bowing my head, I began with “Let’s Pray.” No sooner had the words come out, than the first interruption sounded, “No need for that!” a gentleman ambled up to the front and announced, “Hey everyone, no need for sadness, it’s me, I’m back, it’s Jesus!” There is a magnificent lack of words in the English language to describe what happens around here, though we did have to assist Jesus to adjust his hospital robes so that they tied all the way back to protect his modesty, as he bowed in front of me. This divine creature taught me that our systems and structures set up to help people often leave them more stigmatised, labelled and more isolated than before they walked into them.

Asking RUOK? is a question of utmost importance, and all of our staff are gathering online from home to do so later today. Yet to my hospital-robed saviour, and many others like him, this question possesses no meaning. What he needs far more than anything is to be asked a question to which the answer has a lived response, “To whom are you connected?” As a community worker I can never erase the memory of conducting a funeral for a 21-year-old, sitting in a room with family, and realising that a poor young guy’s short life was filled with professionals, workers and officers, yet no one he could call a friend. To know who we are, is truly to know who’s we are, and so, while our doors are closed, even if it is for only a few more days, my heart grows heavy.

Thank you for standing with us our Inner Circle, we cannot wait to get back out there.

Jon

Jon Owen

Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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