As the lights flash and the music wavers between songs, Lauren Daigle, the opening act of the Hillsong UNITED Empires Tour, yells into the microphone the words of 1 John 4:18 — “It’s perfect love that casts out all fear!”
At 7 p.m. on Monday, Hillsong UNITED, arguably the most popular Christian band on Earth, played the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. Many attended the event excited and eager to sing and worship along to some of the most popular modern worship songs.
"[I came] just to worship everything, Jesus, just to have fun with friends and stuff,” said Brianna Wick, fourth-year psychology student at USC.
The Hillsong UNITED group developed as a youth ministry band from a church originally called Hills Christian Life Centre in northwest Sydney, Australia. Their first album, released in 1992 and titled "The Power of Your Love," catalyzed the fame of the group, and by 1999 the band was so well known that the actual church itself changed its name to Hillsong. Today, over 50 million people are likely to be singing the band's songs at their weekly Sunday services.
The concert was well received by all who attended, with chilling vocals that gave audience members goose bumps and encouraged them to raise their arms and voices in praise. Others appreciated the various aspects of the impeccable visual performance.
“I thought it was really great," Bacilia Hernandez, fourth-year media arts student, said. "As a media arts major, I pay more attention to lighting and camera work. I noticed a lot of really cool equipment that I’d really love to get my hands on. I loved those screens that were in the background."
The concertgoers represented all age groups, from young children and their parents to teens and college students and even to older members of the surrounding community. People have discovered the Hillsong UNITED songs through various ways and means, and throughout all walks of life. The band has unified Christians in all walks of faith.
“I got into Christian music through Winter Jam," Hernandez said. "I went to Winter Jam and I saw the Christian artists and I thought they were great so I started looking into more music and Hillsong is one of the top Christian artists. And so I happened to stumble upon them."
Toward the end of the concert, the Hillsong UNITED group invited a member of the audience to take part in communion — an act of Christianity when believers remember the crucifixion and Christ's sacrifice — with the band members in an effort to make the concert “more personal.” That audience member was Brandon Waller, a young man with a calm and reverent presence on stage as he shared one of Christianity’s most holy traditions with the members of Hillsong.
“It was a shock," Waller said. "I wasn’t nervous, but I was just in awe."
Playing popular worship songs such as “From the Inside Out,” “Oceans,” “The Stand" and “Prince of Peace,” Hillsong was joined by the audience as they filled the Colonial Life Arena with thousands of voices and arms raised high in praise.
“The worship, it was authentic and genuine," Waller said. "I was just fully immersed in the worship."
In light of all the tragedies happening on a global and local scale, the event was a welcome reminder of the love that is still present in our communities.
“I think it shows God’s true spirit, his Holy Spirit," Waller said. "It just goes beyond political groups, it goes beyond race, it goes beyond opinions. His Word is truth and I think that’s what we should stand on."