A Beacon of Inspiration! Wayside’s Graham Long retires but we are assured the future is in good hands!
After a robust international search that fielded over 100 potential candidates, the baton has been passed to current Assistant Pastor, Jon Owen.
Wayside Chapel Chairman, Ian Martin AM, said “Graham has shown phenomenal leadership in the 14 years that he has been both Pastor and CEO of the Wayside. While we will miss him, he and we are thrilled that Jon will be our new Pastor and CEO.”
“Graham’s articulation of, and unwavering commitment, to Wayside’s vision of ‘love over hate’ and mission of creating a community with no “us and them” has been a beacon of inspiration to us all. You only need to spend some time with Graham amongst the visitors at Wayside or walk down the streets of Kings Cross with him, and you get to see what makes him special: he genuinely connects with people”.
“He engages, he listens, he loves, and in so doing, by his own actions, he is instrumental in giving back hope to people, who often, have all but lost it. And that too is what makes Wayside different, why it has blossomed under his leadership, and why it enjoys a special place in Sydney’s heart”.
“When Graham joined Wayside 14 years ago it was only a shadow of its current self. Our building was decrepit and much of it actually condemned, there was less than a handful of staff and its finances were such that its future was perilous. The contrast with today is amazing: its mission has been revitalised, its new building is a vibrant hub of community activity out of which a number of programs tailor-made for the social disadvantaged are run, there are close to 100 staff members who in turn co-ordinate more than 700 active volunteers, and Wayside also now operates in Bondi as well as Kings Cross.”
Mr Martin said the Wayside Board was unanimous in the decision to appoint Jon to the role of CEO and Pastor.
“We went through a robust and independent recruitment process to ensure we were placing the future of Wayside in the safest hands. Jon lives and breathes the Wayside mission and has the rare combination of experience, vision and heart.”
Graham Long said that he was delighted that Jon was the successful candidate. “Having known and respected Jon for well over a decade I can say he is the real deal. He is someone who has devoted his life to making connection with people from all walks of life. He’s comfortable in the streets and he’s comfortable in the boardroom”.
“What could be more satisfying after Wayside’s 14 years of remarkable growth than to know our beloved community will be entrusted into solid, real and reliable leadership. I can see that the next decade will be even more astonishing than the last 14 years. I’m deeply satisfied knowing that our next CEO and Pastor is a truly inspiring person. It makes my heart soar to anticipate the good that will come to this city and this country through this much-loved leader and much-loved organisation,” said Rev Long.
Jon has spent over 20 years building community in some of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods of Sydney and Melbourne. He is a qualified social worker and was previously a member of a religious order dedicated to living amongst the poor. During this time, he lived in a housing commission suburb in Mount Druitt (Bidwill), where he shared his family home with those seeking asylum, refugees, people in recovery and ex-prisoners. He brings to Wayside a wealth of experience supporting people who have fallen through all the gaps and have nowhere else to turn.
Mr Owen said it was a great honour to be chosen to follow in the footsteps of Graham.
“What a privilege it is to have been selected to represent and lead Wayside Chapel into the future.
“Under 14 years of Graham’s leadership the Wayside Chapel community has flourished. We now look forward to the next phase with a sense of hope and anticipation. It has been a joy to become a member of the Wayside family. We will continue to build community and provide the nourishing and strengthening care that our visitors need.
“I have always found myself surrounded by people who saw the best in me. It has been my life’s mission to likewise see the beauty in others and to call it out.
“Wayside’s mission is to be there when people need us. People facing social isolation, homelessness, addiction and mental health issues on a grand scale. Striving to provide a community of no “us and them” is in the best interest of every person and all can play some part in this grand mission.”
Jon Owen, the current Assistant Pastor at Wayside Chapel, who will officially take up the role on 1 July 2018.
From 1 July 2018, Graham Long will continue his involvement with Wayside Chapel as Pastor Emeritus and will provide support to Jon during an extended transition period. After a well-deserved break at the end of the year, Graham will be back at Wayside in early 2019 to teach courses in philosophy and leadership.
Each week Rev Graham Long sends an email to his ‘inner circle’, over 13,000 people, where he conveys the stories of many of the people he meets, reminding us all that there is a fine line between success and failure, and that many of the socially marginalised fell into that category through little or no fault of their own. This week’s ‘inner circle’ is quite different. It is devoted to ‘our future is in good hands’, the backstory to Pastor Jon Owen.