When I were a lad the Sisterhood was something granny and great-granny Methodists went to in order to sip tea, sing Sankey songs and then gently fall asleep one afternoon a month. Hillsong’s Sisterhood, as you may well imagine, is not quite the same. Think sistas more than sisters.
Judith’s concept of Sisterhood from her Elim Pentecostal youth was not a lot different than mine, however she was not shocked to discover that the weekly event that shares the same name at Hillsong Church is in fact more like a RockChicks event at Church on the Rock back at home, except we don’t hold them weekly. RockChicks in turn was actually inspired by Judith’s visits to Hillsong London’s Colour conference so it all links up in the end.
And so on Thursday morning while Chris and I enjoyed a macho brunch and a masculine chat about manly things, Judith went to be pampered spiritually and practically with a few thousand other women at the Hills Campus Sisterhood gathering. I can report that she thoroughly enjoyed it, and like virtually all other meetings, services and events during our time there it was inspirational, uplifting and encouraging in a holistic way; not just the teaching received during the meeting, neither just the worship band or choice of songs, nor indeed the prayer and ministry time – it was all these and more. It was the complete experience which had clearly been thought through, prayed through and planned so that no-one coming really had an excuse not to feel welcomed and to engage in some way right from the moment of arrival.
Coffee and muffins and stuff were available as the girls arrived, then they all gathered in the Convention Centre for worship, teaching from Bobby Houston and an opportunity to respond in prayer.
When we dropped Judith off a little early at the Centre there was an inviting holy hubbub about the place; coffee stalls were being set up outside to serve drinks and refreshments as women arrived, music playing, host teams preparing to welcome, colourful banners and signs being erected, evidently people had been at work from the early hours setting things up. Both before the meeting and afterwards books, recordings and other resources were available at the bookshop and each lady attending received a small gift as she left the auditorium.
One very encouraging aspect of this for Judith was that she felt that RockChicks back in Guernsey was nothing to be embarrassed about. She said whilst Sisterhood was more frequent and much larger of course, the welcome, content, style and opportunity for the Spirit of God to move and empower was very much the same! It was an inspiring encouragement that Judith and her team are headed in the right direction.
Later that day we both attended a Creative Ministry evening where around 200 gathered in the Hills Campus Chapel. This gathering made up of the various creative ministry teams in the church, arrived from around 6.30pm firstly when refreshments were being served, then someone led us in worship (a simple guitar and bass set), then a time of information and teaching (lasting about 45 minutes) followed by breaking up into groups – music bands, singers, artists, teams building stage sets etc., song-writers, AV teams, and many other creative bods going off in different directions to spend time rehearsing, working on ideas for future services and events and the like.
These were nearly all volunteers and it was most impressive and moving to see the emphasis and centrality on worship, prayer, teaching and ministry first before they all got into doing stuff. This is a hallmark of everything this church does, and they are not being super-spiritual in doing so as some might be. Rather this is part of their DNA and therefore a vital aspect of their corporate lives together. It all comes so naturally. Moreover it means that regularly trainees, interns and junior leaders are given space to lead worship, minister and teach, which perhaps otherwise would rarely happen in a church this size. Gifts are tested, nurtured and matured through use – even through making mistakes, so it is healthy to have a safe environment for emerging leaders to develop and experience how God uses them. I understand these Creative gatherings are currently held fortnightly in this format.
This was the end of a long and fulfilling day. As we hit the sack that night we talked of how inspirational it was for both of us being around these beautiful Christians, and I wrote in my journal “This church is so attractive, it’s large but it’s still family, the people are naturally supernatural; we really can’t help but be caught up into a passionate lifestyle of worshipping and serving Jesus…”