Barneys’ signboards: words of God?

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Publican Arthur Elliot (left) and Rev. Robert Forsyth (right).

Publican Arthur Elliot (left) and Rev. Robert Forsyth (right). Image: Vic Sumner

The Reverend Michael Paget reflects on the infamous signboards of St Barnabas in Sydney.

At St Barnabas Anglican Church we have always believed that the claims of Jesus Christ are a public issue, and can be discussed with generosity and a spirit of fun. In the 1980s, in particular, the signboards outside the church – designed to attract the attention of passers-by – were one avenue through which that conversation took place. At this time Rev. Robert Forsyth (pictured above right) was responsible for Barneys’ signboards; he soon found he had competition from Arthur Elliot (above left), publican of the nearby Broadway Hotel. The church’s and pub’s signboards would reference and “talk” to each other. Much-loved examples include “This church is for sinners” / “This pub is for drinkers,” “Jesus bowled over death” / “Lillee bowled overarm” and “Jesus died for the whole damned world” / “But would he do it again?”

The new St Barnabas Anglican Church by fjmt on Broadway in Sydney received a High Commendation at the 2013 World Architecture Festival.


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