With the number of COVID cases escalating across Australia, NSW Health authorities have restricted singing and dancing in most public places. However, a video has been circulating showing hundreds of participants maskless, singing and dancing inside a large tent at Hillsong Chturch's annual youth camp. NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said he was "completely shocked" by the video from the event.
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.
Hillsong Church has responded by saying that they will cease congregant/student singing and dancing during the services that occur on the campsite. They have apologized and stated 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."
Seeing many teenagers dancing to non-Christian music at the camp, some have question if it was really a musical festival. Hillsong responds, "It is important to clarify that the current youth camps we are holding are not music festivals. 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. All of these factors have been communicated by the NSW Government as low-risk as described under current guidelines. We have also implemented strict COVID safe procedures before and during each camp which include professional paramedics onsite 24 hours per day with testing capabilities.
These camps have a Christian focus and include worship services. Over a three day duration the percentage of time spent singing is minor. However we regret giving any perception that we were not playing our part to keep NSW safe and we sincerely apologise to the community at large. Our heart is for people, and loving and caring for all people is at the core of our church."