From the ages of 14 to 24, I was a born-again Christian. My church was originally an off-shoot of Hillsong, one started by pastors who were within the Hillsong congregation in the early days. So we were still encouraged to attend all the major Hillsong events.
I have been at events like Summercamp, the Newcastle-based youth retreat currently under fire for going ahead amid spiking COVID cases in NSW and a slew of state-mandated rules against singing and dancing.
Scores of Australian artists and event organisers have lost money this week. But not Hillsong.
If you’ve ever seen pictures of a Hillsong Church service, you would have seen how similar it looks to a concert - it's like a major Aussie band on a national tour. There’s fancy lighting and a state-of-the-art sound system booming. People dancing and jumping around, singing euphorically, hands in the air. This isn’t some traditional religious church service where there are a dozen people in pews softly singing to the Lord.
Take that regular service and multiply it big time? Then you’ve got Hillsong Conference.
Hillsong Conference is the church’s annual major event. It’s on in July, and in 2022, will be held at Qudos Bank Arena. In 2018, they sold out the venue. That’s 21,000 people. I went to every Hillsong Conference in those 10 years of church life, my first three years being via the corresponding youth conference held in a smaller, but still pretty huge venue within Sydney Olympic Park.