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  1061: Hillsong, Dominion Theatre, London

Hillsong, Dominion Theatre, London

Mystery Worshipper: The bloke of some area.
The church: Hillsong, Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road, London.
Denomination: An offshoot of Hillsong in Sydney, Australia.
Comment: We have received comments about this report.
The building: Hillsong uses the Dominion Theatre for three services on a Sunday. The theatre is currently playing We Will Rock You (Queen the musical). However, on Sundays, everything under the 20ft tall Freddie Mercury statue is transformed into Hillsong the musical.
The church community: People come from all over to Hillsong. The person I sat next had come up from Bromley to attend all three services.
The neighbourhood: Tottenham Court Road is nation's capital for all things electrical, so you can easily pop out and buy yourself a new DVD player in between services if that takes your fancy.
The cast: The service leader was Gary Clarke, who is the church leader. The preacher was Brian Huston, head of Hillsong, Australia.

What was the name of the service?
The service wasn't given a name.

How full was the building?
Packed to the rafters, a full house, standing room only.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was bombarded with a sea of welcomes from very attractive girls on the welcome team.

Was your pew comfortable?
I had one of the best theatre seats in the West End, and so it was very comfortable... although there isn't too much sitting down at Hillsong.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was huge atmosphere of expectation and excitement. Chatting and catching up seemed to be replaced by getting ready for the band to burst into song. You could be mistaken for thinking that you had walked into the Queen the musical.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
We started the service by singing a song, so there was no formal, spoken welcome. About 20 minutes into the service, the first words were, "Welcome to church!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. All the words were projected on a video wall that wouldn't be out of place at a U2 concert.

What musical instruments were played?
There was a full on rock band that would make Cold Play jealous. This included a choir, six or so lead singers, about six guitars, two keyboards and two drum kits.

Did anything distract you?
Everything was performed with the professionalism of a West End musical or a rock concert. The thing that distracted me from focusing on God or my Christian brothers and sisters was the performance of the whole affair. You are wowed by this amazing spectacle in front of you and not really pointed towards Jesus, or towards encouraging each other.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Stiff-upper-lip is certainly not the phrase to describe the singing at Hillsong. People were jumping up and down, waving their hands in the air and shouting out random things – this was anything but dull.

Hillsong, Dominion Theatre, London

Exactly how long was the sermon?
A long 53 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
1 – The preacher walked around the stage with a Britney Spears style microphone. He kept repeating little catchphrases such as, "You've got to understand what's in your hand." Sadly, he was preaching a very dangerous prosperity gospel.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was all about calling and purpose. He interpreted 2 Timothy 1:9 ("God... has saved us and called us to a holy life...") to say that we should abandon the calling that is in our heads and follow the purpose that is in our hearts. This was a really odd sermon, and it was centred on the idea that success in this world is a sign of God's blessing, while failure in life is a sign that you aren't following God's purpsose.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The church notices were given using a very professional short film. Being a graphic designer, I was in design heaven at that point.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The whole Hillsong message, which seems to identify worldly success with the blessing of God. I think Hillsong would be like hell for someone who's life isn't going very well, but is still trusting Jesus. Hillsong would say that you are only blessed by God if your life is successful. Also, I felt massive pressure to give money, when I was only a visitor. That money obviously funds the TV show they make every week, and the extravagent venue.

If intercessory prayers were said, what issues were raised?
There were prayers said for people who had filled in prayer requests slips. The leader read a few of the slips out, which gave praise to God for sorting out people's life practicalities, and then prayed for those people whose lives were not going so well – these people were classed as being "in transition". No prayers were said for the world, or for people outside Hillsong.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
There was no shortage of people to chat to. The friendly, attractive girl who greeted me when I arrived found me and asked if I had a good time at Hillsong.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Free fair trade coffee. No homemade cakes, though.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 – Everything on the outside looks like this is a genuine, Christ-focused church. However, after hearing that God's blessing equals worldly success in the prayers and sermon, I would never make this place my own church. I would also never recommend this church to anyone who is serious about keeping going with Jesus.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It made me glad to be in a relationship with the God who created people who are so creative musically, visually and in terms of hospitality. However, I consider this to be a church that has been led astray from the Gospel, and I will now start praying for the people who go to it.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The amazing graphic design.
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