‘God’s Squad’ is a unique Christian Motorcycle Club
If you thought Jesus wasn’t for tough guys, wait till you meet God’s Squad, which tears up the highway in the name of the Lord. This international Christian Motorcycle Club started in Australia in the 1970s and featured in the Diocese of Parramatta when Most Rev Kevin Manning, Emeritus Bishop of Parramatta invited members to accompany the World Youth Day cross in 2007.
Catholic Outlook caught up with Peter Hilton, a Catholic member, about how God’s Squad has brought him closer to Christ in the lead up to their 45th anniversary since their Melbourne foundation.
How has God’s Squad nourished your faith?
My involvement in God’s Squad continues to strengthen and encourage my faith through my fellowship with other Godly men and it provides me with a readily recognisable expression of my faith when I’m on the road on my motorcycle (my God’s Squad patch on my back).
It gives me an opportunity to be the light of Christ to my friends in the motorcycle scene, to those I meet on the road and to those we meet when we visit schools, prisons, hospitals and community groups.
When I’m riding I’m aware of what is on my back (the Cross of Christ) and that everything I do (and say) reflects on who I follow and represent.
What inspired you to join God’s Squad?
I have had a passion for motorcycles for many years; in fact, ever since, as a four year old, my uncle took me for a ride on the back of his 1952 Vincent HRD Black Shadow which had been modified for racing at Bathurst where it clocked in excess of 235kph.
From that day on I was destined to become involved in motorcycles. My involvement with God’s Squad came after reading a book by John Smith, the Founder of God’s Squad, On the Side of the Angels.
I had recently bought my first Harley Davidson in 2002 (I had owned several other road and dirt bikes prior to that) and had been riding with my local Harley Owners’ Group (HOGS) but after reading John’s book felt a call to use my passion for motorcycles as a vehicle to share my Christian faith.
I attended a meeting of the Brisbane Chapter of God’s Squad in 2002 and quickly realised that I’d found a bunch of like-minded followers of Jesus who had a passion for motorcycles and who were not shy to share their faith.
What are the main activities of God’s Squad?
We meet for prayer, sharing, support and Bible studies. At every opportunity, we seek to be out on the road with our “colours” on – it is our God’s Squad patch that we wear on our back that is a visible sign of our Christian faith.
We support one another by staying in touch by phone, email, text and by praying for each other and our families. We pray for our chapters around Australia and overseas.
Whenever we meet to go for a visit or just for a ride we pray together for safety, for opportunities to share the Gospel and for loved ones at home who release us for our ministry.
If you see us on the side of the road, at a service station, a Maccas (McDonald’s) or anywhere for that matter, standing in a circle with arms around each other’s shoulders, chances are we’re praying. We’ve even had folk come up to us afterwards and bless our ministry and tell us they’re praying for us too. That is an absolute blessing and we appreciate everyone’s prayers.
Do you reach out to members of biker gangs?
Yes, we do reach out to other motorcycle clubs (we, and they, prefer that we not to call them gangs).
We visit their club houses regularly to catch up, socialise and see how they’re doing and we go to parties and on runs with them. We seek to be the light of Christ to them and to walk with them in their times of need.
We visit their members in hospital, in prison and in their homes. They ask us for prayer and we will offer to pray for them and their families when they are in need.
As we have ordained ministers, pastors and now an ordained Catholic Priest among our membership (we are a very ecumenical expression of the Christian faith) we are also able to offer the Sacraments.
Unfortunately, this most often seems to be funerals for club members and their families. Some of these funerals are huge events attended by hundreds of their club members and God’s Squad members on motorcycles.
We also conduct weddings and baptisms for them. They understand that the funeral or wedding will be a Christian ceremony. However, we do not take it as an opportunity to proselytise them. As one of our members often quotes St Francis of Assisi… “Preach Jesus, and if necessary use words.”
First and foremost, we are judged by our actions and behaviour and it is from there we hope to earn the opportunity to share the Gospel with our friends in the motorcycle scene.
Do you have a connection to Western Sydney personally?
Yes. I seek to catch up with my brothers in the Sydney chapter, most of whom are in Western Sydney, on a regular basis. I did so during our God’s Squad NSW State Run, in April, held at Ridgecrest, Mumbil, just near Wellington. All our NSW Chapters were present with some having ridden from as far away as Coffs Harbour.
I will also be catching up with our Sydney brothers for the Smoothie Memorial Run in August, which generally goes through the West of Sydney and finishes up at Londonderry for the Sydney Chapter’s anniversary party. That run often has members from other Australian chapters including from Victoria and Queensland.
In past years, I’ve also visited prisons in Western Sydney with God’s Squad members including our founder, Rev Dr John Smith and Sydney member Rev Neil Jansons. Neil has recently commenced work with Jesuit Social Services.
In 2008 I rode from Melbourne to Sydney for World Youth Day and stayed with one of our members in Western Sydney who also had WYD pilgrims from Poland staying with him. It was a blessing to be present at several WYD events with my Sydney brothers on our motorcycles, including “Come to the Water” at Bondi Beach.
What are the main ongoing activities of God’s Squad in Western Sydney?
Club meetings are held once or twice a week and involve Bible studies and prayer, and motorcycle club visits. Members also go on runs with other clubs, attend car and motorcycle shows, visit churches, youth groups, prisons, hospitals, and community organisations where they’re invited to speak about the club’s ministry and our faith.
Do you have big annual events?
We have a National Run each year, and for the first time this year, we also had a NSW State Run. This year’s National Run will also be our 5th International Run to celebrate 45 years of God’s Squad in Melbourne (where it really got off the ground).
This year members will come from Chapters all over the world – most likely including New Zealand, USA, England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, Holland, Ukraine, Finland, Lithuania, Germany, and other European countries. It will be a marvellous time of fellowship and sharing and we might all even go for a ride together.