An interesting article appeared in the SMH today describing how the young woman who played the role of Mary on Catholic World Youth Day has joined Hillsong Church.
Things I found notable were the appeal of Hillsong to her, and the acceptance of her change by members of the Catholic faith, who despite her leaving, did not write her off as no longer Christian for leaving Catholicism.
In the article, Ms Dickson is quoted as saying that she finds a greater hunger for God satisfied at Hillsong, where her faith is about a lifestyle, rather than just attending church on a Sunday. Giving comments on her decision, both Catholic Archbishop George Pell, and her friend who played Judas, comment that she is not leaving Jesus Christ – Hillsong still believes in Jesus and his teachings.
I speculate that Hillsong has probably been very welcoming to Ms Dickson, and that the initial experience there has been wonderful and exciting for her. I guess I relate it to my own first couple of years in a megachurch – the worship alone was better than anything I’d experienced previously, and it was a pretty heady experience. In particular the belief that God would be such a tangible part of daily life – and was interested in your real day to day issues – and that you could expect to really see Him move and make a difference – was new to me at that time.
Is this the experience of most people when they join a megachurch, and when does it start to change? There was an innocence to my experience of it all initially, when I look back, which seems to have been lost over time. There are some key concepts in there which I still think are valuable – the way that we can relate to God so daily and so intimately and tangibly, is one of the good things that I believe the Pente churches have re-emphasised. (Regardless of other developments.)
Another question this story raises with me is, how similar is Hillsong now to the Catholic faith in part? Perhaps that has also helped the transition in this case – but then maybe it is the same regardless of what church people have initially come from.
The acceptance of Hillsong’s faith in Christ by members of the Catholic church, including it would seem (at some level at least) by Archbishop George Pell, is also interesting. Hillsong did support Catholic World Youth Day, when some other local evangelical churches would have nothing to do with it, denouncing Catholics as not Christian at all. Hillsong appears to be inclusive, regarding Catholics as part of the body of Christ, even though they’d disagree on many issues. CCC had varied responses at different churches – some supported it (my local one did), and some were against it. The Sydney Anglicans of course, had their own event in direct competition. Perhaps Hillsong is reaping some reward for its more inclusive approach.