A crowd streamed into Festival Hall on Friday but they weren’t there to watch rock music.
There was a band, but it played soft contemporary Christian songs. The “fans” present were not worshipping guitar gods, but a higher power.
“Welcome to church,” Pastor Kent Medwin told the congregation, backed by stirring keyboard chords. “Know that you are loved, know that you are welcome ... every Easter we remember what Jesus did for us ... let us prepare our hearts to recall all that Jesus accomplished on our behalf.”
The Good Friday service at 9.30am, and another at 11.30am, were the first Easter services since Hillsong, the international Pentecostal mega-church, spent $21 million to buy Festival Hall, the storied music venue in West Melbourne.
The hall is better known for performances by secular acts, from The Beatles to Midnight Oil. Another two Hillsong services were scheduled there for Easter Sunday morning.
Hillsong was encouraging online pre-booking of (free) seats to comply with COVID-19 contact-tracing rules, with a limit of about 500 patrons per service, and attendees are asked to keep space between their groups and others.
But like in congregations across the state, it was a joyous return to worshipping at Easter in person, after 2020 Easter services went online to comply with COVID-19 restrictions that banned crowds.