more gold from Graham Long at the Wayside Chapel

From this week’s email…wayside logo

Dear Inner Circle,

The full range of emotions were present at a memorial service yesterday in our Chapel. On our altar was a cross, a bible, a candle and a can of bourbon and coke. They were symbols of a life, beautiful and damaged, that ended in our toilet. Yesterday was a day for acknowledging that we all feel the neck-jarring obscenity of dreams shattered and promise denied. Some were looking for someone to blame.  Those who had shared in a mutual disregard for life were inclined to be self righteous, certain that someone must be blamed; anyone other than admit the collusion of self hate that contributed to the loss of a will to live. Some carried a burden of guilt that was asking if it might have been different if only we had listened or watched or confronted or something. We were all lost and all spoke from the heart. Congregations wouldn’t come much tougher than ours yesterday nor much more real. There were tears and strained voices. We remembered a story of Jesus about the son who took his inheritance and blew it. On his return home, he’d rehearsed a speech about “no longer being worthy to be called a son”.  The speech was cut short because the father was choking the son with a loving embrace. The father showed no interest in how the son had messed up his life but only that he was home and in his fathers arms. It is a good story and a good picture of God and our best chance of understanding what happens to those of us who mess up.

Yesterday on the way to Wayside a long serving volunteer was stopped by police and searched right in the main street just near the Kings Cross Station. Two male police I’m told, put this woman through indignity that included removing items of clothing in front of the scores of people who were passing. I’m on public record as a supporter of the Kings Cross Police but behaviour like this does horrendous damage to the police and to our whole community. I guess locals have seen this kind of thing happen often enough but the police tend to target the poorest people in the community and we assume that something legitimate is happening. I think we need to ask however if such behaviour would be ok if those we know and love were subjected to it. Would I be ok if a couple of young cops stopped my mother and asked her to remove some of her clothing in the main street and in front of scores of people and would it be ok if they searched in her bra for drugs? If it is not ok for my mother or sister or wife or daughter, why is it ok for this lady yesterday or anyone else? What purpose is being served when such indignity is visited upon members of the public? It does not help local business; it does nothing to modify patterns of drug use; it can’t boost anyone’s confidence in the police service. If there is some reason for strip searching members of the public, then surely police would have to show reasonable ground to suspect illegal behaviour and surely it could be done at the police station where the manner of the police officers could be monitored and evaluated to ensure the maximum chance of dignity.  What a damage we do when we divide the world into goodies and badies.

Years ago I was a chaplain at the Parramatta Prison and the Governor in those days was a rough diamond who had little time for the hundreds of bureaucrats in the department who disapproved of his gift for political incorrectness. In my first meeting with him, I put my keys and some other stuff on his desk and he said to me, “Careful! Not all the thieves around here are wearing green”.  That man has long since left this world but I’m grateful for his wisdom that knew that there is bad in all the goodies and good in all the badies. New South Wales is paying a heavy price for years of policy that has been driven by shock-jock self righteous squawking that constantly divides the world into goodies and badies and seeks to lock up all the badies. The Church used to have a monopoly on self-righteousness but these days there isn’t a clergyman anywhere that could match the chorus of journalists, shock jocks and politicians that bombard us and seduce us with their indignant words from above about the state of the world.  “Something needs to be done”. “Someone is to blame”. It’s the cry of the one who cannot own their own contribution toward the demise of their brother or sister or community.   Grace and beauty come from the most unexpected places. This morning a man brought me a coffee and then ate a bread roll in front of me. It was hard work for him because he had no teeth. He also had a nasty sinus problem that made it near impossible for him to eat and breathe at the same time. I would have been happy for him to desist in either activity. I was keen to move him along and so I stood and told him that I needed to go to another office. He stood, farted, and then threw both arms around me and thanked me for the few minutes that I’d given him. My office didn’t smell good, but I expect the animal pen at the back of the inn on Christmas Day, didn’t smell so good either.   thanks for being part of our inner circle,



~ by Garry on August 27, 2009.

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