St. Augustine’s Church sign

1 Westerland Rd.

“Have you ever thought of this one?” is a frequent phrase whispered in the ear of Reverend David Pilling. Rev’d Pilling, Rector of St. Augustine’s Church, is the instigator of a popular sign located at the busy intersection of Elizabeth Avenue and Westerland Road. Since the first slogan “Drive slowly: You might hit an Anglican” some 3 years ago, there’s been hardly a mention on the board of more conventional notices such as service times or perhaps a bit of scripture. Instead, Pilling favours announcing to the world passing by such words of wisdom as “This is a ch__ch. What’s missing? (UR)” and the recent “Give Satan an inch and he’ll become a ruler.”

The high-profile location near Memorial University is an ideal location for such a sign, says Pilling, and the messages are intended to foster discussion through comedy.

“Most Newfoundlanders like a good story,” he mentions, adding, “I imagine that God has a sense of humour.”

The church itself is also somewhat unusual. Situated in the riding of St. John’s North, St. Augustine’s Church is an auxiliary of the larger Anglican Cathedral downtown. Erected in 1968 in the heart of the neighbourhoods around the recently built University, the church features an unusual building design: it is a six-sided structure, modelled after an ark.

Catchy phrases are often devised by either Pilling himself or suggestions from parishioners, family, and friends. Strangers with funny ideas have even stopped him about town: at gas stations, bookstores, restaurants, and in the mall.

The St. Augustine’s sign is part of a larger trend throughout North America called “sentence sermons.” They have become a genre unto themselves, and many websites list suggestions and photos.

As I write this article, the sign currently reads simply “Merry Christmas”. When asked why the message was so straightforward this time, Pilling replies, “it was too cold to write anything else!”

—Erin McKee
Suggestion for a nook?


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23 May 2012

  1. Emilie · May 23, 2012

    Great job Erin! I was just saying to some friends the other day that I love this sign, and always look forward to new postings. Then I read this online…it was fun to learn a little about the man behind the messages. :)

  2. Jon J · May 23, 2012

    For those of you that don’t travel across the island much, you may be amused by another church with an interesting sign…


  3. Bert · May 23, 2012

    I agree. It is quite amusing.

  4. Craig · May 23, 2012

    “Exposure to the Son prevents burning” was my personal favorite.