Sundays begin a little differently to other mornings as we set up early for our chapel service. I got held up this week which forced me to rush setting up, making sure all the microphones were working, the batteries charged, the stands set up, checking Ribena (we don’t use alcohol for the Wayside eucharist) levels for communion. As my blood pressure rose, with only minutes to have everything ready, I noticed that a young woman lowered herself gently to her knees before our altar. She was gazing at our carving of the “screaming Jesus”. Eventually she turned to me and said, “I know what that feels like”. Most churches use the image of an empty cross but at Wayside the cross has Jesus’ face on it and he’s screaming in pain. What other image could we use at Wayside? In spite of my rush, my face and the face of this young woman connected. She turned back to the carving and said, “If this is God, I get it, and maybe he gets me.” From being burdened by time pressure, suddenly time evaporated. I don’t know the story of this young woman but her few words stopped me in my tracks. Something deep, beyond words, arrested me and caused my heart to leap toward this precious person. I didn’t know her pain but in a second, she showed me that through pain we can find some comfort in connection. For her, the awesome was not a fairytale where she was granted every wish, but rather the awesome is a solidarity with all that is real.
So often the ways our culture helps people move from isolation to community can have the reverse effect. Turning people into clients, patients, cases or some sort of cog in our machine is an endless, even if well-meaning, activity that liberates no-one. If only we could see others as people to be met rather than problems to be solved. I meet people who can list off the “wrap-around” professionals in their lives: social workers, probation officers, doctors, counselors, psychologists, therapist and more, but when asked who is their friend, there is no answer. This morning I saw someone in obvious distress drinking hard liquor on our street. In order to keep this a safe place for everyone, we do not allow drunkenness. I’m proud to tell you that instead of marching up and delivering exit orders, I saw one of our beautiful workers quietly approach the person and ask if they were OK and if they needed anything. “All I need is a hug luv, that’s all I need right now”. The embrace was met with a sloppy kiss on the cheek but I saw no more profound act of daring and care that day.
Thanks for being part of our Inner Circle,
PS. A couple of months ago, many of you traveled from far and wide to attend our Celebration Sunday event and thank Graham Long for 14 years of contribution to the community. We captured this cracker of an event on film and you can watch it here.Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO