Thanks to my parents Peter and Margaret Dooley, I grew up going to church. I’ll never forget travelling by bus to a Billy Graham crusade from Glenbrook Baptist Church all the way to Randwick Racecourse with my dad leading the singing on the bus. He did so with his usual gusto, and I can still see the faces of everyone on that bus smiling and singing along as Dad bellowed his heart out. The first time I spoke at one of our church services, Dad was ready with some solid-gold advice. ‘Keep it simple,’ he said. ‘Three points and a poem and you’ll be good to go!’
Church has had a hugely positive effect on my life personally. I met my wife Lucinda in church. My vision for the future has been enlarged in church and my horizons have been broadened because of church. I’ve also had the privilege to work with really great people and teams over the years, and to witness lives transformed in the best and most enduring of ways.
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, ‘It’s different for you, Phil, because you’re a pastor, so no wonder church has been central to your life.’ However, my dad was a barrister, and church was an influential part of his life too. For many years, Dad served as a greeter at the front doors of our Hillsong Hills location, alongside my father-in-law, Douglas Wylie (a.k.a. The Irish General), welcoming people into church every Sunday. Dad and Doug were a mischievous combination, who had opinions about everything and shared them with a twinkle in the eye and a dollop of humour. They reminded me of the old guys in The Muppet Show, but at the same time they were also like the righteous, who are described in Psalm 92:12 (in the AMPC) as long-lived, stately, upright, useful, fruitful, majestic, stable, durable, and incorruptible because they’d remained planted in the house of the Lord.
I recently got a brilliant email from a guy, who’s been part of Hillsong Hills since its early days as Hills Christian Life Centre, and who shared that he did electrical work for Lachlan Macquarie Chambers in Parramatta when my dad was a barrister there. (Dad was one of the founding members of those barristers’ chambers.) Let me conclude with an extract from the email:
Being a young tradesman doing maintenance work for a building full of barristers, I found it sometimes intimidating working in an environment of such hierarchy. Some people would hardly acknowledge your presence, but the odd few were quite friendly, of which one certainly stood out, his name Peter Dooley.
My first couple of years in my Christian walk were spent attending a small Pentecostal fellowship at Eastwood until the Lord led me to Hills Christian Life Centre in late 1997.
I remember the day I came to church. I was amazed to see your wonderful father ushering at the front doors of the Hub; wow, no wonder this man was always so pleasant to me at his workplace; he knew the same Jesus that I do.
‘So esteemed in the world and a servant in the House of God, such a humble man. Your dad was certainly an inspiration to me.’