Australian health officials have ordered Hillsong church to cease singing and dancing at its youth camps due to COVID-19 guidelines on public events.
According to Christian Today, video footage showing young people dancing and singing at an outdoor youth camp last year resulted in criticism since it was during a time when concerts and festivals were prohibited because of the pandemic.
New South Wales Health issued the order against the popular megachurch in response to the backlash.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet expressed disappointment that Hillsong carried on with its youth camp when other events were shut down.
"These rules aren't there for the sake of it. These rules are in place to keep people safe," he said.
Brad Hazzard, NSW health minister, argued that the summer event was "clearly in breach of both the spirit and intent" of public health orders.
Thrillsong, a protest group of music bands, issued a statement saying: "We firmly support measures to protect our fans and communities and to safeguard our healthcare workers. We simply ask that if rules are made, they apply to everyone equally. We need to be in this together."
In a statement on Friday, Hillsong Church confirmed that they "immediately and willingly" enacted the order, which remains in effect until Sunday. At the same time, however, they contended that the summer camp should not be equated to music festivals.
"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," the church explained. "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," the statement continued.
Hillsong added that they implemented strict COVID-19 measures "before and during each camp," including "professional paramedics onsite 24 hours per day with testing capabilities."
The megachurch also contended that the time spent singing at the youth camps 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", the statement concluded.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Royalty Free
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.