I reckon I will never forget the events this past week, they have been so stressful for me.
Firstly I had been asked to conduct the funeral service for Tori Johnson. That brave young Lindt Coffee Shop Manager in Sydney’s Martin Place who was killed during the siege there. It is an enormous privilege to be invited into peoples’ lives at times like that, but a huge responsibility, too. As you can imagine his family and those who loved him were shattered and so, I wanted to do the best I could to give them a real opportunity to be able, each in their own way to say goodbye within a sympathetic and caring framework. That meant listening intently to the family and friends as we met and trying to piece together a picture of him within which loved ones could speak.
The more I did that the more I got to understand how unique and special he was and the sadder it made me feel. At the same time I was promoting my Exodus Foundation’s Free hot traditional Christmas day Lunch for the poor, needy, homeless and disabled. To do that effectively and so get to those who really needed to come, I had to be upbeat and that I found a really hard task. But I did it.
Tori’s Funeral was on the Tuesday before Christmas Day and proceeded without incident. However afterwards I accompanied several of the Lindt Café Hostages to Martin Place to Lay flowers. That was a harrowing affair. As we processed in to the tent with armloads of flowers and wreaths a lone busker played “Silent Night on his amplified guitar. The haunting melody and the haunting occasion will stay with me forever. Every time I hear ‘Silent Night’ I will be transported back to that moment.
With all that rattling around in my brain I began to prepare for Christmas Day. What to say in my sermons? Was there enough food? Were enough donations coming in, both in money and ‘stuff’ for the day? “ I have to be upbeat now”, I kept thinking “But I don’t feel like it.”
Christmas day arrived and I still hadn’t written my sermon. I couldn’t write it, somehow I was paralysed. So I decided to say what was in my heart at the time. This I did and the words flowed.
The Free Lunch went off well. More people than ever turned up. For me the highlight was centred around a young 19 YO girl Kaileigh Fryers who died in a horrific car crash months earlier. Going through her possessions her mum found a Bucket list of things Kaileigh wanted to do before she died. One was to host a meal for the homeless on Christmas Day. In her memory her whole family staffed our Dessert Tent. Every one of the 3,000 people who turned up were served dessert in her memory. It began a process of healing for her family. I’m so proud of that/them.
Then at night we did it all again at our free food van in the inner city. There we get the real denizens of the inner city and it is always, for me, a haunting experience.
Well, as you know, Christmas night it poured down with rain. The Council will not allow us to put up shelter. Anyway, we did. We put up two temporary tents which weren’t nearly enough. Everyone, including me got soaked to the skin. To see the endless line of poor buggers lined up in the pouring rain for a meal and a gift from Santa broke my heart. We WILL do better next year and the council can’t let this happen again.
I’ve written this to get it off my chest and try and move on. Life can be tough, you know. But we can’t let that be a reason for not doing anything.
So, hopefully, now I can look to the future with a bit of hope.
God Bless and Merry Christmas,