Melbourne honours street preacher
Desmond Hynes takes ‘not ashamed of the gospel’ to a whole new level
For over 30 years, one Melbourne man took his faith to the streets, boldly sharing with Melburnians his love for Jesus and encouraging others to do the same.
Desmond Hynes converted to Christianity in 1983, and spent the next three decades spreading the word of God through his iconic signs and “Jesus trolleys”. A new exhibition at Melbourne Town Hall, The Jesus Trolley, showcases what is left of Hynes’ work.
Hynes would take his trolleys to the Melbourne Cup, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, election day booths, local markets and malls. The front yard of his terrace home in Elsternwick (in south-east Melbourne) used to be a something of a shrine to his faith until it was sold and demolished in 2013.
His message was not always popular. When people passed by his Elsternwick house, they would often stop to take photographs – as well as hurl insults.
In an interview with The Age in 1997, Hynes explained why he was so vocal in sharing his faith: “the Book of Deuteronomy tells us to paint signs on our door posts and gates, and, well, I have … Jesus tells us in the Bible we must tell everyone about him. And, I’m telling everyone about him.”
Curator of the exhibition Joanna Bosse says, “Des Hynes is Melbourne’s version of Sydney’s Arthur Stace, of Eternity fame. Hynes’ creative output, of which very little remains, has an appeal that transcends the religious content of its God-fearing message and the fascination or distrust one may have for its maker.”
As Bosse describes, Hynes does follow in the tradition of Eternity’s namesake, Arthur Stace. Around Sydney from the 1930s to the 1960s, Stace wrote the word “Eternity” in chalk on walls and pavements under the cover of darkness.
But there are differences between the two artists: Stace chose to be anonymous, and managed to remain so for over 20 years, while Hynes himself was a key part of his street preaching, often reading from the King James Bible and giving impromptu sermons on the street, as well as handing out cassettes of his material and small booklets or tracts.
Arts and Culture portfolio chairman Councillor Rohan Leppert says, “Street preachers have been a feature of Melbourne for more than 150 years. This City Gallery exhibition offers an insight into how Desmond uniquely combined art and advertising to promote his messages.
“It is also a reminder that our city is a place where people are free to air their views on any topic that they feel passionate about whether it’s religion, politics or human rights,” says Councillor Leppert.