Thursday, 19 December 2013
Dear Inner Circle,
About 150 of us gathered on Monday to bury a man who had lived rough for many years and in boarding houses in recent years. Lots of people and one enthusiastic dog stood to their feet and bore testimony to a life that enlivened many. There were many stories of kindness given and love shown. His own family were shocked to see their loved one pictured with his arm around the Premier of NSW and sitting in the lounge at Lindsay Fox’s place. They were shocked to see what a lovely contribution their boy had made to the world. The coffin was placed in the hearse and as it slowly moved down Hughes Street, we all broke into a long, standing ovation. What a moment. To say this was an experience would entirely miss the point. We touched the truth in this moment but not a truth we can preach. We shared in a truth but not one we can expect others to examine and adopt. This was not a moment of reflection or contemplation. We participated in a truth that was greater than us all. It is truth that is done. As the street filled with the sound of people clapping I knew again why we are here. I 'knew' again our mission although I obtained no knowledge from it. That’s why we can’t go to others and say, ‘you must know this’ or ‘you must do this’ because we don’t really know how we did this. We were grabbed by grace; grabbed by the truth that there is no 'us and them'. No helpers and helpees; no rich and poor; no sick and well; no saved and lost; no clients and experts; there is ‘us’, just us.
Minutes ago I was trying to finish a conversation and get up to the office when I could see that a woman was looking for her chance to pounce on me. She found her chance, “Hey, Rev, you got $2 to spare?” I reached into my pocket and parted with a couple of coins. Another fellow, who was drinking coffee in our cafe, waved me over. He beckoned me to put out my hand as if he wanted to give me something. I put out my hand and he put $2 in it. My pockets are a recycling centre.
A young woman asked to see me and we sat in the chapel. She asked me to hear her confession and then to pray for her forgiveness. She physically shook with fear and anxiety. She had run away from a violent man and in the process injured him quite seriously. She thought she may be charged with a very serious offence. I asked her which was the hand in which she held the weapon. I then cupped her hand in my hands and made a washing motion across her hand as I spoke the words from the prophet Isaiah, “Fear not I have redeemed you, I have called you by name and you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you, when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned for I am the Lord the holy one and you are precious and honoured in my sight and I love you.” I told her that she was never condemned by any God but only by her brutal husband and by herself. She has no family and she was much younger than my own daughter. It was easy for me to be her father in that moment and assure her that she was born a beautiful little girl and that she remains a beautiful little girl. She will have her day in court and a judge will make his judgement but the Great Judge has declared her to be “honoured and precious”. This dear girl needed support with many things and thankfully I caught the eye of Una, our Senior Community Worker, and she came beside us and began that long task. There is no safer pair of hands than Una’s.
I’ll write next week and that will be the last for the year. December is proving to be nuts here as we prepare for our annual Christmas Day Street Party. This year, like many before, we'll close Hughes Street to traffic and put on Christmas lunch with all the trimmings for 700 people. There will be a special Christmas church service at 10.30am, we'll fill the street with music and dancing and then we'll serve lunch from 12.30pm. Click here for more details. Our street party is for the whole community and it's a day that lifts us up and reminds us that grace is every where to be found. We'd love to see you there.
Thanks to you for being our beautiful inner circle,
PS. The summer edition of our On the Verge newsletter went out this week. If you missed it in your mailbox, you can read it online here.
Rev. Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
Click here to listen to podcasts of past Inner Circle's, aired on ABC 702's 'Afternoons with James Valentine'
Be sure to follow Graham on Twitter if you have an account; @waysidepastor
Previous Inner Circles
5 December: The ups and downs and all is well
28 November: Kissed by the community
21 November: Our cup runneth over
14 November: A revelation from wayside
7 November: When excrement happens
31 October: I am therefore I think
24 October: We are surrounded by heroes
17 October: When you least suspect
26 September: A wayside wobbly
19 September: Knowing a gift
12 September: Advancing at the retreat
5 September: A little dose of good
29 August: Fighting with a feather
22 August: The boom is just beginning
15 August: True riches
8 August: Small is beautiful
1 August: Sensitive people miss all the best views
25 July: A whole lot going on at wayside
18 July: Kings Cross a place of courage
27 June: Holy ground