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Church, Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA
Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA.
Independent. They seem to be more or less affiliated with Hillsong,
the huge Pentecostal megachurch headquartered in Australia.
They meet in what they call the Wave Convention Center, an enormous
modern structure with plenty of plated glass that looks like
an office building. One travels to the Center from the parking
lot via golf carts, which made me laugh as I had also encountered
golf carts at another
church I had Mystery Worshipped. The auditorium is large
and includes a baptismal pool, stage, and a cry room. (I wondered
if they also had a laugh room.) In addition to the auditorium,
there are two bookshops, two coffee shops (one featuring Wi-Fi
access), ten restrooms, and office space for the church staff.
The church had wanted to erect a 12-foot-tall light-emitting-diode
(LED) sign outside the property, which would have violated City
of Virginia Beach zoning regulations and was opposed by nearby
residents. The city planning commission has approved a somewhat
smaller LED sign, which many residents still oppose. Next door
to the church is a crematorium, also marked by a prominently
Their many ministries are all detailed on their website and
are far too numerous to mention here. These include outreaches
to women, children, and especially the military. They have five
locations in Virginia; at the Virginia Beach location there
are three services each Sunday plus Wednesday and Saturday services.
The city of Virginia Beach is located in the southeast corner
of Virginia on the Atlantic Ocean and is a favorite holiday
destination for people who love the surf and sand. Unfortunately
this section of the east coast is especially prone to hurricanes.
A few days before my visit, Hurricane Bill (the first hurricane
of the Atlantic season) had narrowly missed the area. Virginia
Beach is also home to several army and navy bases; Naval Air
Station Oceana is the city's largest employer.
The Revd Steve Kelly, senior lead pastor, and others who did
not provide their names. The guest preacher was the Revd Brian
Houston, founder and senior pastor of Hillsong Church, Sydney,
The date & time:
August 23, 2009, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
It was about 85 to 90 per cent full. Pastor Kelly joked that
they had probably missed perfect attendance because of the number
of surfers who were enjoying the after-effects of the hurricane.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Someone held open for me each door that I encountered and wished
me a good morning as I passed through.
Was your pew comfortable?
Movie theater style seats – quite comfortable. A strange
incident, however, took place concerning my seat – read
How would you describe the pre-service
There was a countdown clock displayed on one of the split HD screens at the front. It was counting down the time until the service started. People were milling about in the sanctuary as music softly played.
What were the exact opening words of the
When the countdown clock reached 0:00, the assembled music team
on the stage instantly broke out into a song I didn't recognize.
It was as if a concert were starting. I was caught off-guard
by the suddenness of it and couldn't make out the words.
What books did the congregation use during the
What musical instruments were played?
Digital keyboard, one acoustic guitar, three electric guitars,
Did anything distract you?
The HD screens at the front were both awe-inspiring and, for
me, also a distraction. Sometimes I caught myself watching the
screens to see what else was going on instead of focusing on
the service. I write this off to my having been a first-time
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
The worship was very upbeat. I could see many people raising
their hands and voices as they praised Jesus. There were quite
a few teenagers jumping up and down in the aisles. The HD screens
would alternate between showing the praise/worship team and
a shot of a random person in the congregation singing along
with the music. The songs were unfamiliar to me but nevertheless
inspiring. At times, though, the video feed looked like a TV
commercial for Christian music CDs. I was half-expecting a telephone
number to appear on the screen advising me to hurry and order
my CDs while supplies last.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Brian Houston's message was upbeat and inspirational.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
His text was Acts 9:1-8 (Saul's fateful encounter with Jesus
on the road to Damascus) and his talk was entitled "Having
An Encounter with God." God will bring purpose and direction
into our lives and will enable us to have a greater intimacy
with Jesus and a greater sense of responsibility. Just as Saul's
companions did not understand what had happened to him, so will
not everyone understand our encounter with God.
Which part of the service was like being in
There was a part of the service where the pastor read testimonials
from people who had submitted prayer request cards to him. One
was from a lady who said that ever since she started tithing
she has gotten three pay raises—and her husband’s business has
increased 30 per cent. Another one was from a person who was
praising the Lord that he had only 15 chemotherapy sessions
left to endure.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
When I first entered, there was plenty of available seating.
I sat in a row where there were lots of empty chairs. However,
after a few minutes, an usher approached and asked me to move
to a different seat for no apparent reason other than
that they evidently have a certain way they like to fill up
their seats. Having to move was a huge annoyance, but I calmed
down after a few minutes. After all, I was in the house of the
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Most people sauntered by me as if I didn’t exist. Only one man
acknowledged me with a curt "Hi" as he walked past.
How would you describe the after-service
The line in the upstairs coffee shop was too long, and so I
stopped in at the downstairs coffee shop. I didn’t purchase
a beverage, but I did buy an oatmeal raisin cookie. Overpriced
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 There was nothing wrong with the church theologically
or fundamentally, but I would hesitate to join a church where
I am asked to change my seat for no apparent reason.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes. I enjoy seeing tweens and teens not be embarrassed to praise the Lord. There were plenty who would stand, shout, jump, and dance for the Lord.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The crematorium next door. It got me to thinking of how I might
want to be disposed of after I die. (This upset one of the passengers
in my car to no end!)
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