Hillsong Revisited

It was almost exactly one year ago that I last went to Hillsong Paris. Last time it was two thirds full. This time, standing room only. I was there early, along with pretty much everybody else. Except the two worship leaders who showed up at 10:55 for an 11am start – ha!  I wonder where I’ve come across that before. As a result, we didn’t get going till 11:30 – everybody waits in the foyer of the Bobino Theatre and only gets in when the multimedia is rolling and all the soundchecks are done. I think the delay might have been because one of the guitarists was a ‘special’ – one of the new breed, a rather scruffy-looking Ben Fielding, fresh from the Europe Conference in London, armed with a Gibson that sang like a dove and a songwriter whose songs appear on the new live album “God is Able”. And, yes, I bought a copy. I had wondered for some time how they got the particular Hillsong sound – all done with open tunings. I tuned the Guild down to an open D when I got home and played around a little bit – the results were remarkable. But, more of this later. Fresh from the London Conference and en route back home, the main speaker was a Hillsong heavy, Phil Dooley the pastor of Hillsong Capetown and a dead ringer for Owen Wilson out of Starsky and Hutch. I’m not, obviously, the first to notice.

The theme was basically, “I can” and the power of positive testimony. From Numbers 13, the Twelve Spies and the two – Caleb and Joshua – having a positive confession. A bit early for Tisha B’Av – falling as it does on August 8th this year, but the point was well made. There’s an overwhelming sense of joyful optimism about the place which is good for an old grump like me, despite my presence raising the average age by a couple of months. As a church experience, a weekly dose of sanctity, it’s incomplete; time together being used for praise, thanksgiving, testimony and evangelism. No corporate confession or prayer for the world, no Communion – which I didn’t miss because it was contextually unnecessary. I assume the meat and potatoes work is done in small groups and the committed spend a whole lot more time together than a couple of hours on a Sunday morning. As last time, the worship was slick and even with a stranger leading, beautifully executed. Perhaps a touch delirious and over-spiced for my personal taste, but the average punter on the front rows was lapping it all up with much bopping in unison on the spot. I maintained a more restrained presence on the front row of the balcony, trying to imagine a full-on, high-wattage multimedia experience in the Purple Palace… 
The ‘date for the diary’ has to be September 4th, when the Top Banana his own self, plus wife, namely Brian and Bobbie Houston, are visiting. Should be quite a gig…
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