Never in my lifetime have we faced so many ‘storms’ in such a short period… whether it be floods, bushfires, a global pandemic and its social and economic impact or George Floyd’s tragic loss of life that led to the global stand against racism.
Jesus speaks directly to us when He says “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27, NIV). Our hope is that Hillsong has served with the Christian message of comfort, encouragement, and peace in these times of uncertainty.
Despite the interruption to regular church programs, our staff and volunteers have been on the coal face, assisting many who have been affected in this season. We redeployed people to serve alongside our pastoral team, who together made close to 400,000 phone calls, identifying the needs within our communities, and providing care and support to those most affected.
Bobbie and I were astounded as we watched our congregation excel in being caring, faithful and generous throughout this difficult time. Through donations, Hillsong raised and disbursed $1.363 million to those affected by the bushfires. The Storehouse was able to donate 420,000 kg of fresh produce to partner organisations and served close to 30,000 people with discounted grocery items to ease the burden during the economic downturn.
We became acutely aware of the pain people have experienced through the sin of racism. Our church has sought to be a place that “beckons ‘WELCOME HOME’ to every man, woman and child that walks through the doors” (The Church I Now See). Even though our congregations worldwide are richly diverse communities, we quickly realised there was more we could do to champion racial diversity. As a church, we believe racism is never acceptable on any level or in any form and is a direct affront to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are committed to a journey of learning and action. Thank you to the highly qualified people who have committed their time to serve on both our Global and Australian Racial Diversity and Inclusion Committees. These commenced in 2020 and have taken important strides in the development of our church’s strategic direction, along with education and awareness as we develop and roll out a comprehensive action plan.
Like so many churches around the globe, COVID-19 meant we were not able to meet in person and so we gave all our attention to holding worship services online. This opened the opportunity to reach people well beyond our physical locations and will remain a key initiative post the pandemic.
As church services have re-opened, we have heard many stories of people who first watched church online and are now attending one of our locations somewhere around the world.
The gospel message transcends all cultures, and we were excited to announce new Hillsong churches being launched in Atlanta-USA, Montevideo-Uruguay, Vienna-Austria and Tokyo-Japan.
I would like to thank our Board as we were guided by their wisdom and service again this year.
In late 2020, we took steps to address significant leadership issues in our church in New York City. We realised that a very unhealthy culture prevailed which breached the trust and care of our people. Whilst this issue does not directly relate to Australia, several steps are being taken to strengthen our governance and the frameworks which uphold the wellbeing of our staff and congregations around the globe. As a church that continues to grow in its geographical reach, we are committed to the learning and development required to ensure we provide healthy communities where people find hope and answers wherever they find themselves in Hillsong Church.
Our church in Australia operates a ‘Safe Church framework’ mandated with “providing safe and secure environments for all people who are a part of Hillsong Church and its community services.”
In order for our congregation to be better informed regarding media articles written about our church, we launched the Newsroom. This is a platform where helpful and factual information on various media stories can be accessed.
The season of uncertainty our world has faced has shown again the role the Church plays is providing healthy communities of hope and support. The Great Commission compels us to ever be looking outwards. We are as passionate now as we were when we started 37 years ago. We are committed to growing a church that serves in the community, is relevant to people’s today and expectant for all God has planned for tomorrow!