Hillsong Church-a model for Catholics too?

As a contemporary Pentecostal church, Hillsong (launched in Sydney in 1983) has gained international fame, especially through its music, and it seems to have become a source of inspiration for some European Catholics eager to revitalize their church as well. In France, according to an article by Youna Rivallain in the French Catholic weekly La Vie (Feb. 28), Hillsong has not only managed to develop its own network of congregations in some major French cities and influence other Evangelical groups, but is attracting the attention of some Catholics as a possible model. Well-known among French Catholics, the Lyon-based praise band Glorious was launched in 2002. However, its founders acknowledge that their encounter with Hillsong, at the time a local branch was established in 2008, gave them a new vision, to the extent that they now see their Catholic band as having a “spiritual affiliation” with Pentecostal Hillsong. According to Benjamin Pouzin, one of Glorious’ leaders, what impressed them were the efforts by Hillsong to make the Christian message relevant to contemporary culture and to daily life in a way that could credibly compete with secular offers. Moreover, they feel that one of Hillsong’s strengths is its ability to communicate Christianity.

“The 21st century will be evangelical,” says Pouzin. French journalist Linda Caille, who has authored a book on French Evangelicals (Soldats de Jésus, 2013) and another one on French Catholics (Les Cathos, 2017), sees in such encounters between contemporary Catholics and Evangelical culture the seeds of something that could turn into a Catholic revival. However, she notes that Catholics have to deal with institutional constraints unknown to Evangelicals. In Lyon, Cardinal Barbarin has allowed for experimenting with new ways of parish life in the flourishing St. Blandine parish, where the Glorious band is based.