At the Catalyst Luncheon on October 14, 2023, Jon explained that his work at the Wayside Chapel is influenced by what he and his wife learned while volunteering in Calcutta in places founded by Mother Theresa. The task of the working at Wayside Chapel is to listen, accompany, and accept each person who comes there. If a volunteers feel the need to give good advice on how to live to one of the visitors, the suggestion is that they “put a sock in it”. In a caring community there can be “No Us and Them”. Success is celebrated, failure requires deeper accompanying.
While at university Jon had asked himself hard questions about what he wanted to do with his life and had the courage to change direction because he wanted to help marginalised people. He was a member of a group who shared their home with people who were doing it tough for whatever reason. He had the good fortune to fall in love with a woman with a similar goal in life. At her suggestion they spent their honeymoon in Calcutta working in Mother Theresa’s hospice for the dying and in the orphanage for rescued children. This is where Jon was taught to focus on accompanying people, showing love, focusing on the person not the “problem”.
At the Wayside Chapel something of the larrikin approach of Jon’s predecessor remains. There is no rule saying that you can’t laugh. The café provides a selection of good food at a modest price. People are invited to sit and start to form a community. A branch has been established at Bondi with similar facilities, showers, clothing, café. The lonely have someone to listen, someone to be with, without judgement of them or their lifestyle. In short, the aim is to live as a good Christian providing a loving presence to others.
If you wish to learn more about the Wayside Chapel or subscribe to their newsletter, go to their website www.waysidechapel.org.au