By Nils von Kalm
11 June 2022
The rumble of Dave Fuller’s Harley Davidson stands out amongst the traffic as he arrives at St Mark’s Spotswood to greet me on a wet Friday morning. Easily recognisable in the colours of God’s Squad Christian Motorcycle Club, he pulls in and says a hearty, “’Morning!” as we start to chat and walk into the church.
Dave remains passionately committed to ministry to outlaw bikers after first earning his colours 31 years ago. He is president of the Melbourne chapter of God’s Squad and involved with the club’s international executive. These days though, Dave is better known in Anglican circles as the vicar of St Mark’s, part of the Yarraville Anglican Parish.
It was in northern NSW as a young man in 1980 that Dave had a dramatic encounter with Christ through what would be described as a charismatic Methodist church.
Soon afterwards, aged 21, Dave felt a sense of calling to a Christian vocation.
“It had two elements,” he recalls. “One was that God had called me to exercise leadership in his church, and the other one was to preach and teach.”
Those two elements have been consistent in all the ministries Dave has undertaken since the late 1980s.
Dave’s calling led to his introduction to the outlaw bike scene. He had a natural interest in motorbikes, but it wasn’t in what he calls the “one percent” subculture that outlaw bikers represent.
“Occasionally I would ride up to the Surfers Paradise motorcycle races with mates, where I first encountered the ‘one percent’ outlaw clubs that wore patches to identify them,” he explains.
“As a reasonably new Christian, I had heard of this club called God’s Squad in Melbourne. I had no idea at that time though that I would have anything to do with them.”
But soon after his return to Melbourne, Dave was given a cassette tape (remember this is the 1980s!) of God’s Squad founder John Smith preaching.
“It just captivated me like no other preacher had,” he says. Soon afterwards he met John and some God’s Squad members. Dave’s life was about to change.
Dave describes the ministry of God’s Squad as a ministry of presence. Members have consistently attended bikie functions, made themselves known, and been the presence of Christ to a subculture that is on the margins, often misunderstood, and shunned by polite society.
Dave cites John Wesley’s commitment to personal holiness and social justice, as well as the influence of John Smith, as being central to shaping his own sense of the gospel. His approach to ministry has allowed him to change many lives over many years.
So, how did a young guy with long hair, who was a bit of a rebel in his youth, make the shift from outlaw bikie circles to the institution of the Anglican Church?
It turns out that the transition wasn’t as big a leap for Dave as readers might think.
“I had my background in the Methodist tradition and I did my theological training at Ridley College, where I came into contact with a lot of Anglicans,” he says.
“Having a setup of bishops and authority has always been a part of my DNA.”
The Anglican Church is an excellent fit for Dave. Since his 2005 ordination it has given him a home, a space, a family, accountability, and he has still been able to do all the things he is committed to. Here he puts his gifts as an outward-looking person with evangelistic skills, and as as a preacher and teacher to good use, alongside his work in the biker scene.
This has helped in his work on what he calls his “patch” in the western suburbs with St Mark’s. When he arrived at the parish, he went around knocking on doors, visited the local primary school, childcare centre, the Returned Soldiers League, and the local football club.
Dave says there is a genuine community atmosphere in the Spotswood area. St Mark’s has stood in the area for 130 years, so it is well established as part of the community. Its longevity is only beaten by the local pub, the Spotswood Hotel.
“It feels like a country town in some respects” Dave says. “Football and netball are very big here, and I’m now the honorary chaplain of the local footy club.”
Through his work Dave also brings a lot to different generations, including the elderly. The bike culture highly values honour, and that is what Dave wants to bring to the community of St Mark’s. He says he wants to honour people by visiting them in nursing homes, and he wants to honour those who have been part of the church for many years. He also expresses a strong desire to create the future, which includes the development of the children’s and youth ministry.
Dave also describes himself as a prodigious reader as he slowly turns to his vast bookshelf covering one whole wall of his study. There are probably hundreds of titles there, ranging from the religious to the secular. NT Wright features heavily amongst Dave’s immense collection. “I believe that preachers should read prodigiously as we need to keep feeding ourselves and stay committed to life-long learning and keep our preaching interesting,” he says.
Having been in ministry for 35 years, what is next for Dave Fuller?
Well, he sees himself long-term at St Mark’s and wants to continue to coach younger clerics in the Melbourne Diocese.
Whatever the future holds, the people of Spotswood are sure to see a lot more of Dave Fuller’s Harley Davidson.