You Are Who You Eat With

Dear Inner Circle,

As National Reconciliation Week draws to a close, the first since the defeat of the Voice, our community is marked by a complex array of emotions. The pain of the last chapter, for many, has created a lingering sense of deep hurt and disappointment. Amidst these feelings, there seems to be a significant lack in our national conversation – a failure to take a beat, to contemplate what this means and where we should go next.  

Recently in an interview on a podcast, the question was asked, “What’s a song that’s meaningful for you?” I remember in the early 90s having a cheap Walkman, and in 1993 listened every day to Rage Against The Machine’s debut album of the same name. (They never specified the machine, but I’m fairly sure it would have been a photocopier).  This fuelled the discontent, but not the study, for Year 12. As a brash young man getting involved in social justice causes, lyrics like Bruce Cockburn’s “I’m gonna kick the darkness till it bleeds daylight” were my drivers.  

I am so grateful for a wise elder, who, as Lisa and I packed our van and our kids to head to Sydney many years ago, whispered in my ear, “Never be so foolish as to think you are bringing any ‘light into any perceived darkness’ man. In fact, when you arrive start by doing nothing, except listening. Listening to where the spirit hovers over the land you are about to enter, to her whispers, and her promises over this place.  And ask for her permission to join in inching them forward for the speck of time you will be there, and then be thankful.” 

That’s some sage wisdom for all of us, now more than ever. Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney reminds us that “while we may not have won the referendum, we did not lose our courage, determination, and resilience… we can’t afford to throw up our hands in despair. Sometimes change happens fast. But more often than not, change happens slowly. Progress is not a straight line.” Like Linda, I am still hopeful we can achieve a more just and more reconciled future.  

This week, we shared laughter and deep wisdom in a yarning circle with our amazing Aboriginal teammates, who pour their hearts into their communities every day. As a Wiradjuri woman once told me, “you are who you eat with, love.” I had the privilege of being joined at lunch by the sister of a Barkandji man, whom I had the honour of praying for in his last days. We reminisced about his life and talked of Bourke, Brewarrina, and his life as a jockey. We laughed together, and as she left, she told me of her morning. She had been spoken to rudely at the shops, and prayed to her spirits to lead her somewhere she could find healing, which led her straight to Wayside. Her presence and words ushering new life into my heart, and it filled the room. Perhaps a better song for our times would be Archie Roach’s “Let Love Rule”. I’ll leave it to you to give it a listen. 

Maybe I needed the songs of kicking darkness to get on the journey, but it is the songs of conspiring, literally “breathing together,” and listening that help a new world break through and keep us all at Wayside on the path less travelled that makes all the difference. 

Thank you for being part of the Inner Circle,  


Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
Wayside Chapel

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