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Thursday, July 21, 2011

From the Wayside Chapel

Dear Inner Circle,
In a crisis, a curtain is lifted on something that the community has by its actions, agreed to hide. Damaged communities react with rumours, (someone always has the "inside story"), and finding 'who to blame' becomes the dominating theme of conversation. At such times, even a community that doesn't like to be organised, will form a lynch mob in a minute. In my old age I can see that both the evil of the evil doer and the righteous indignation of the mob, is an illusion. A mature community will own the pain, learn the lessons and move on. In London this week, it's amazing to hear all the righteous voices. No one this week is saying, "Actually if you could print an intimate conversation that the Prince of Wales might have had with someone that he ought not have been talking to, then I'd pay for that." No one is saying, "If you could print a picture of a young woman with her breasts exposed each day, I'd pay for that". Everyone is righteous in London this week. It's clear that wrong was done and it is clear that Murdoch fed rubbish to the people but it is also clear that the demand for rubbish was strong and he recognised it and used it to make money. The curtain has been lifted on a communal desire for rubbish. We ought to embrace the pain of this as belonging to us all; learn our lessons and move on.
Wayside lost a boy who was just 15 years old this week to an overdose. It's a devastating loss and because we are such a damaged community, everyone has the inside story and everyone has a theory about who is blameworthy. This loss belongs to us all and instead of finding who is to blame, we need to embrace the pain of this waste and stare into this meaningless void. Like anyone in grief, many of our sentences this week begin with the words, "If only...". I've seen Dean, our Manager of Wayside Youth, twice this week with tears running down his face. I'm sure he felt embarrassed to be seen in such a state and yet it is those tears that make him the right person for Wayside. Those tears reveal a Dean who can look into the void and overcome the need to blame someone. Those tears tell me that Dean can be the father and brother of this kid and many others, whose lives ended before they began. Dean has been helping our other workers embrace the pain of this crisis without the need to blame anyone. We all need to learn various lessons that come out of this pain and in due course, move on, with more wisdom. I'm thankful for a team that lack the kind of professional distance that insulates them from the pain. It must be difficult to understand how our pain could be a contribution to the world but for me, it is a sweet smelling gift that we make to our community. Our tears, our laughter and our prayers all subvert the illusion that the world can be divided into "goodies and baddies".
I was disappointed to learn yesterday that the government want to belt David Hicks one more time. They have acted to take the bit of money off him that he made from writing his book. I've never heard David claim to be a hero. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time but even senior politicians admit that he broke no law. He was kept for nearly six years in detention that included torture and without being charged or given a right to account for himself in a court. Eventually he pleaded guilty to a law that was made up 6 years after he was sold to the Americans and he pleaded guilty because otherwise detention might have continued for ever. He wrote a book; it wasn't a perfect book but it was a massive effort for a man with little education. He turned down much more money than he made from the book by media and has for years chosen to keep his head down. No doubt this latest act will feed the appetite of those people in our community who need to hate David. If David was your son, and he is; if David was your brother, and he is; you'd find a way to understand that we do dumb things when we are young and vulnerable but we'd recognise that a change of heart and a change of behaviour are worthy of forgiveness and restoration. 
A funny little man told me just now that he's taken out a free membership at a local gym. It caught me by surprise because I would think that to lift a weight or ride an exercise bike might kill him. He explained however that because we're closed for a couple of days next week to move house that he'd hit upon this brilliant idea to have a shower each day. You've got to love that for ingenuity.
Moving house is not the most romantic job in the world but next week we will move into our new building. It is a moment in history that I was told on many occasions would never come. How blessed are we to see this day. How lucky are we to begin the next part of our history when we care less about buildings and more about the work for which the building exists. The renovation of the old building begins in August so it’s not time for balloons and streamers but it is a significant moment for us. Come to our church service at 10 on Sunday 31st or drop in at any time on that afternoon and we'll gladly show you around.
Thanks for your love and support and thanks for being part of this inner circle,
Rev Graham Long
The Wayside Chapel
Kings Cross
Footnote: Graham is the Pastor of the Wayside Chapel in Sydney's notorious Kings Cross.His father Harold led me to the Lord Jesus Christ. His weekly newsletter is full of hard won wisdom from "the Real World"

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