Hillsong Church responded with remorse after the leader of New South Wales slammed the Australia-based global evangelical church network for gathering teenagers at a camp in Newcastle to dance and sing despite a strict COVID-19 public health order.
New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said he was “incredibly disappointed” after seeing footage of Hillsong’s youth camp attendees singing and dancing to mainstream music, which he believes was not in compliance with the country’s exemptions for religious groups.
As a result, the church was ordered by New South Wales Health to cease singing and dancing immediately.
“Singing and dancing at a major recreational facility is in breach of the public health order,” New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard said in a statement Thursday.
Hillsong Church told The Christian Post that they have “always abided by public health orders as directed by each government, and takes COVID safe procedures very seriously for all services and events.”
“Ensuring the safety of those attending Hillsong events, and supporting the wider community effort to keep Australia safe, are both priorities for our church,” Hillsong’s statement stressed.
Photos and videos posted on the ministry’s social media accounts showed countless 15 to 17-year-olds singing and dancing without masks while musicians performed on stage. The camp session ends on Sunday.
“It is important to clarify that the current youth camps we are holding are not music festivals,” Hillsong said. “These are high school aged events that include sporting activities and games. They are alcohol-free events, held outdoors, and the number of students attending each camp is just over 200. The students are known to us and part of the same social network.”
Hillsong maintains that the gathering is considered low-risk under the government’s current guidelines. Hillsong assured that it implemented strict “COVID safe procedures before and during each camp gathering,” which included “professional paramedics onsite 24 hours per day with testing capabilities.”