Rod Bower is about 13 minutes in to his sermon at an Anglican Church on the NSW Central Coast. He’s talking about scapegoating and giving the example of the Romans’ treatment of Jesus.

Lightning Rod: Gosford Anglican priest, Father Rod Bower had his sermon interrupted by a group impersonating Muslims.

The church is in Gosford, handily, as it turns out, right next to the police station. Bower sees some people through the glass door of his church. It looks to him as if they might be some of his Muslim friends from Sydney.

A minute later, he realises that’s the very last thing they are. They are not friends.

The group bursts in to the church, with a mock call to prayer. They were wearing what Bower calls “mock Muslim attire”. It takes him just a second to address his congregation and say: “Just in case you are wondering, these people aren’t Muslims.”

Bower always records his sermons and puts them up on Facebook. Sometimes, his sermons get tens of thousands of views. This time the sermon is interrupted and the camera is turned to record the invasion of a small church by a group of men pretending to be Muslims, some of them wearing the burqa. Demonising Islam. They bring what passes for prayer mats, they prostrate themselves; and continue to demonise Islam.

It only takes a couple of minutes for members of the congregation to shepherd them out. They are much more polite than I would have been. “That’s very brave of you,” says one congregant, voice rich with sarcasm. Another says: “Out you go.”

Think about what this means. A group of people are praying quietly and listening to a sermon and a group of hooligans, mocking another religion, invades a church to cause disruption and spread hatred.

Bower should be called lightning Rod. His advocacy for refugees and for asylum-seekers attracts so much hate, attracts so much hate, much of it on social media or by email and phone call. I ask him if this is the first time he’s been subjected to physical intimidation.

He says no but adds: “I wouldn’t call this a physical threat.”

It is, however, the first time these terrorists have come to interrupt the congregation.

“They are trying to protect a way of life which they are also destroying.

“They don’t realise that by making Muslim people further marginalised, they are making them more vulnerable to radicalisation.”

Two young Iranian asylum seekers also at the service were shocked. They could not understand what was happening.

The video shows Rod speaking just as the invaders leave. “Well, that was the best sermon illustration I could have possibly [had]. You could have forgiven me for actually staging that. I wish I had of but I didn’t. That’s a classic example of scapegoating.”

A minute later, he asks the congregation to spend “a moment quietly and we try and find our centre”.

“I tried to run a normal service. I tried but it wasn’t easy. I lost my train of thought just a bit.”

Bower confesses that both his wife and his adult children get worried from time to time.

I keep asking people about comparable incidents and Justin Whelan of Love Makes A Way reminds me of the disgusting behaviour of those from Westboro Baptist in the US, arseholes who promote race and religious hatred; and promote homophobia. They are the people who disrupt funerals while others grieve.

And that’s what’s arrived here. People pretending to protect our way of life while trying to destroy what we have.

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