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|1586: New Creation,
Independent. They are a member of the National
Council of Churches of Singapore.
The church was founded in 1984 but has never had its own land
or building. Since 1999 they have rented space in Suntec
City Mall and the connected convention centre for their
services. Their venue is named "The Rock" and unless you wander
into it and notice the Christian bookstore inside, you would
mistake it for a disco or club.
This is the second largest church in Singapore, claiming an
attendance of over 20,000 just the Sunday before I visited it.
There are four English language services, one in Mandarin, and
one in the Hokkien dialect. Their many ministries and outreaches
are all described on their website.
Suntec City Mall consists of five buildings plus a convention
centre built according to the ancient Chinese concept of feng
shui, which involves the positioning of objects to achieve
a positive influence on people. At the centre of the mall is
the Fountain of Wealth, claimed to be the largest fountain in
the world (although the claim has been disputed, and rather
than take sides Guinness World Records has removed
the category). This being one of the largest malls in Singapore,
it is extremely busy on weekends, especially when there is a
popular exhibition or convention in progress. There is a cineplex
right beside the churchís auditorium and a hypermarket on the
Deacon Matthew Kang began the service. A young lady identified
only as Angie was the worship leader, and the speaker was Pastor
Joseph Prince, senior pastor. Angie wore a cap and reminded
me of an 80s Cyndi Lauper, the American singer, songwriter and
The date & time:
29 June 2008, 9.00am.
What was the name of the service?
English Sunday Service.
How full was the building?
The Rock seats 1400 people. We arrived 35 minutes early and
it was already standing room only! Our names were added to a
queue for seating as it became available. A number of other
rooms were set up with a video feed to accommodate the overflow
crowd (as they would have to, if their claim of an attendance
of 20,000 is accurate).
Did anyone welcome you
Entering the church was akin to attending a concert or exclusive
nightspot in town. Smartly uniformed bouncers – oops, I mean
ushers – wearing wireless earpieces were stationed at the entrance,
along with uniformed security guards from CISCO, the oldest
and most widely used of five auxiliary police forces authorised
to provide armed security at events in Singapore. We entered
at the wrong side of the queue ribbon and were asked where we
were going. We answered that we were new and weren't sure of
where to go. An usher explained that we could stand in the auditorium
or go to one of the overflow rooms. When we opted for the former,
he led us personally to the proper door. Another usher there
said, "Welcome to church" and handed us a four-page
Was your pew comfortable?
Since we were standing, we were given cushions in case we wished
to sit on the floor. From that vantage point, all we could do
was look at the LCD TV screens on the pillar. Some people who
were seated left about 10 minutes before the end of the service,
so we did get to try out the chairs even if only for a brief
moment. They were imported from the Spanish firm of Ezcaray
Internacional, maker of customized seating for theatres, auditoriums
and performing art centres. I felt that they were the most comfortable
church chairs Iíve ever sat in. I was half-expecting cup holders
next to them.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Though all the seats were taken, the auditorium was practically
empty! People had come early to reserve seats by placing Bibles,
handbags or other objects on them and then head off for breakfast.
Of the people already there, I saw around a dozen engrossed
in reading the morning papers. Just a few minutes before the
service started, people streamed into the auditorium to take
their reserved seats. Not very far from where I was standing
were four empty seats that remained "reserved" for
the entire service – the people who had claimed them never
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning, church! Praise the Lord. God is good all
the time – and all the time God is good."
What books did the congregation use during the
No books were used. Instead, the song lyrics were superimposed
on the camera feed that was projected onto three large screens
on top of the stage as well as two LCD TVs hung on the pillars.
Copyright information for each song was also displayed at the
bottom of the screen. It was like a live karaoke session.
What musical instruments were played?
The band consisted of two keyboardists each with their own double
deck of synthesizers, an electric guitar, an acoustic guitar,
a bass guitar, a drummer and a percussionist. The worship leader,
Angie, was supported by four backup singers and a 50 member
choir. Everyone on stage was impeccably dressed. Most of the
songs were either Hillsong or written by members of the church's
Did anything distract you?
Quite a few of the congregation appeared to be from the middle
to higher class of society, wearing very trendy hair styles,
makeup, accessories and clothes (some with low necklines). In
other words, it was like "Beverly Hills 90210 Goes to Church,"
where the hip and beautiful get spiritual. The main distraction,
though, was waiting for seats to become available. An usher
approached several times with single seats to offer, but there
were two in my party. Even so, I was sorely tempted to say,
"Yes, please" as the usher said, "One single
available." The other thing that distracted me was the
occasional display of funky graphics on the middle projection
screen; they reminded me of a screen saver.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
The worship was like a concert or music video, with the musicians
playing like a top-notch band. It began with the usual progression
of high tempo praise songs and ended with slower worship songs.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
80 minutes. Much too long for my liking.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Pastor Joseph Prince is a very dynamic speaker and
captured our attention despite his digressions. He used a personal
tone and pop-culture references to identify with his audience,
including things like current TV commercials and movies. I couldnít
get one of his jokes, though, as I donít watch Singapore TV
often. But the sermon meandered and was way too long.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
He began with a recap of the previous week's service and its
record attendance. He also talked about how to get leaders to
pray over oil so that it can be used as anointing oil. He related
how such oil has been used in other churches to bring people
out of coma and cause other forms of healing. His sermon proper
was based on Jeremiah 23:1-8 (The Lord shall raise up shepherds
over his flock); Psalm 23:1-6 ("The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want..."); and Psalm 78:70-72 (God chose David
to be shepherd over Israel). He said that good shepherds lead
their sheep and do not beat them. He then turned to Daniel 9:23-24
("Seventy sevens" have been granted in which the people
must mend their evil ways). He interpreted "seventy sevens"
to mean 490 years, a prophetic time interval and the precise
time between 31 October 1517 (Reformation Day) and 31 October
2007 (when he preached a particular sermon). Finally he spoke
about the grace of God and said that God sees us as beautiful
no matter what we think of ourselves. His final text was Song
of Solomon 1:5-8 ("I am black but beautiful...").
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The sermon was the best part of the service. Pastor Prince made
us feel that God really does love us. Writing it down doesnít
do justice to how he put it across.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
I didnít like the irreverent atmosphere before the service,
with people reading newspapers and saving seats. It was like
waiting for a show to begin instead of coming to the house of
God to draw near and pray.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
An announcement was made that newcomers should go to the visitors
centre. We remained in our seats, but after about four minutes
an usher approached and asked us to leave so that the next service
could enter. We could see that the queue was already about 200
How would you describe the after-service
We found the visitors centre, where a greeter gave us a welcome
pack including the two copies of the churchís magazine, a sermon
on CD, and some information on care groups and pastoral services.
One interesting freebie in the welcome pack was a time limited
special offer from Passage New York, an upscale fashion boutique,
of a free "little black dress" plus a body scrub or
facial at $88 instead of the usual $680 (or $730 for ladies
23 and older). I was also offered (at room temperature) a packet
of green tea, chrysanthemum tea, or bottled water.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 The sermon was good, but getting to know the people
in church could be a problem. With that many, you don't get
to know anyone.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, especially for the message that God sees us as beautiful
and loved no matter what we think of ourselves.
What one thing will you
remember about all this in seven days' time?
The hip and trendy crowd attending.
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