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January 29, 2015

Surrender imports compassion to Adelaide

Father Rod Bower will be recreating the Gosford Anglican Church sign - famous for its progressive messages - in Adelaide and reprogramming it with a new note every night throughout the Surrender club's glorious existence.

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  • Words: Farrin Foster

The first sign outside the Gosford Anglican Church that attracted widespread attention read “Dear Christians, some ppl are gay, get over it. Love God.”.


Surrender is a new arts and club experience from the creators of Barrio that will operate for three weeks on the Riverbank from February 20. CityMag is Surrender’s media partner and Dr YaYa’s preferred propaganda machine, stay with us for regular updates on Surrender or visit the website.

The author of the sign and head of the Gosford parish – Father Rod Bower – thought it might attract a few complaints, but was naive to the scale of furore that would erupt. A media storm ensued, as did a series of social media campaigns and congratulations, and then there were death threats.

Despite all that, Rod has continued to use his sign to express what he thinks is important.

“I guess one of the reasons why we do keep going is we feel really strongly that we want to contribute to the building of a more harmonious and peaceful society and I think that’s in some peril at the moment,” he says.

“The more we can do to build the bridges and build relationships between different cultural groups, the better. I think that’s important enough to keep on with even though you’re copping some flak, which we do from time to time.”

For the duration of Surrender, Rod will be programming a replica of the Gosford Anglican Church sign that will sit within the club. He will also visit Adelaide to take part in Surrender’s “compassion” themed evening on February 22, where he will meet punters and undergo an extended Q&A session with Surrender’s fearless leader Dr YaYa.

Rod sees the Club as a chance to have a good time and have a good conversation, all at once.

“Surrender is all about having those important conversations,” he says. “The whole Surrender idea is about envisioning a society where barriers are dissolved and human beings can celebrate humanity in a way that’s accessible to everyone.”

While Rod’s signs often respond to daily issues, there’s a fair bet that at least a few of the messages that appear during Surrender’s timeline will reflect on the three social issues he highlights as the big sticking points in Australia at the moment.

“There’s thousands of very worthy issues people can engage with,” he says. “But we’ve been very deliberate about it – There’s a very famous text from the Hebrew scriptures that say ‘what does the lord require but to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly’, so we’ve used that as a model of engagement for us and have chosen three social issues that reflect those three things.”

“To do justice we’ve engaged with the marriage equality debate. Our sexuality, of course, is a very deep part of our humanity, so it engages a justice issue that is concerned with the absolute essence of who human beings are.

“To love mercy and compassion – for us the asylum seeker issue has been one of the real compassion issues of our day, though there are many others.

“And thirdly, to walk humbly. The word humble comes from the same word as earth so the climate issue and our care for the planet is essentially, for us, an issue of humility. We are rooted in the earth and when we damage that we damage our humanity as well.”

As serious as it all seems, the signs are often laugh-out-loud funny and their mix of thoughtful reflection and tongue-in-cheek, post-modern humour are going to feel right at home in the weirdly perfect world of Surrender.


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