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Hillsong UK considering shift, with large gatherings not expected till 2021

by Heather Preston

Megachurch Hillsong is reassessing what its UK congregations will look like after the coronavirus pandemic and says it doesn't expect to reopen its biggest sites until at least 2021.

Prior to the lockdown, the network of churches famous for its largescale gatherings met in twelve separate locations across the UK, with its central congregation meeting at the Dominion theatre in London.

Like many other churches, it took its services online earlier this year following the ban on public gatherings to prevent the spread of covid-19.

As the government has begun to ease lockdown measures and set out plans to return the country to normal, Hillsong UK has been reassessing the future of its services.

Dan Blythe, creative pastor from Hillsong London told Premier that meeting digitally has allowed them to engage with more people than ever before. 

"It's been pretty amazing - we've seen within the UK - more people watching then would be filling seats on a normal Sunday, especially at Easter. The amount of people that joined our Easter service was probably two thirds more than a normal Sunday.

"I think the best thing about it is people have been sharing the link with friends, family members, people from work, and people have been coming who would normally never set foot in church," Blythe added.

Dan Blythe, creative pastor

He explained that the biggest challenge they've faced in going digital has been ensuring the online experience remains authentic and engaging for people. Despite some minor hiccups, Blythe says it's been very effective and it has led them to reconsider the size and format of their congregations moving forward.

Blythe said: "Some of our bigger venues are saying they're not gonna open till 2021. 

"And maybe local is the way forward now, maybe God is doing a new thing, and maybe going back to that way isn't the right way.

"So we're really just praying and seeking God and chatting about how maybe this could be the new normal, a lot of smaller, local communities helping the needs of the people.

"It doesn't really matter how big the gatherings are, the main thing is our community is gathering, whether that's 10, 100, 1000 or 10,000 people - I don't think that really matters. It's more just, what's working for people to experience God."


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