|Comment on this report, or find other reports.
|Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you'd like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.
|Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.
Christian Fellowship Ortigas, Quezon City, the Philippines
Fellowship Ortigas, Quezon City, the Philippines.
The church meets on the top level of Robinson's Galleria, a
rather stylish mall in Ortigas Center. They lease one of the
biggest spaces in the mall, which I believe was once an outlet
store for a famous clothing line but which has been renovated
into a worship hall they call Victory Centre. Coming from the
mall atrium, one enters Victory Centre through a pair of glass
doors that open to a tiny foyer with a small welcome table.
On the table were a stack of coloured brochures advertising
almost every activity the church sponsors. The right side of
the foyer opens into a small bookshop, so tiny that not more
than 15 people can fit in altogether at once. Opposite the bookshop
is a narrow hall that leads to four Sunday school rooms that
also serve as a day care centre on weekdays. Past the foyer
is another pair of glass doors that open to the worship hall.
The dimly lit worship hall with low ceilings is filled with
chairs arranged fan-shaped that sort of surround the two-foot
high stage up front. The stage is without any trace of religious
symbolism – there wasn't even a pulpit. Crowding the small
stage were band equipment and a number of sound system peripherals
neatly arranged. Illuminating the stage was a wide array of
high-tech coloured lights, making the entire worship hall resemble
a modern disco hall or a jazz bar. Two projection screens hung
on both sides of the stage. At the back of the stage is an office
and a holding room for service participants. Because of the
congregation's size, the church rents a 900-seat cinema on the
same level of the mall in which are held three of its most attended
Victory began 26 years ago as a Bible study composed of university
students. The tiny group soon grew from a handful to a more
that 15,000 attendees distributed among 10 churches. Victory
Ortigas is one of the two largest congregations in the Every
Nation family of churches. This congregation alone claims 6000
attending their 12 services every weekend. It has always been
a church for the young and hip because of its continued vibrant
ministry to university students. Victory today is a good mix
of different age groups from all walks of life. One of the most
interesting phenomena for Victory is its growing popularity
among Filipino celebrities. On a regular Sunday, one may see
no fewer than a dozen showbiz, social and sports figures. In
fact, there have been sightings of former first lady Imelda
Marcos. Some critics believe that the growth of Victory is celebrity
driven – that more and more common folks attend worship
just for celebrity sightings.
The mall is smack at the very edge of Ortigas Center, the second
most important commercial and business district in the Philippines.
Ortigas is also home for two other megachurches in the city
which have been the subject of Mystery Worship reports: Greenhills
Christian Fellowship and Christ's
Pastor Ferdie Cabiling, senior pastor, and some unnamed singers.
The date & time:
Mothers Day, 11 May 2008, 5.00pm.
What was the name of the
How full was the building?
I'd say about 450 people were present. There were a number of chairs vacant.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, someone did. They have a good number of ushers who welcome
people and lead them to their seats.
Was your pew comfortable?
There were no pews. Instead, we sat in chairs, with plastic seats and backrests,
and steel frames, which were comfortable only for a certain period of time.
But like any other church I've visited in the Philippines, their
chairs are designed for medium-sized Filipinos. The chairs and
the rows are arranged too close to each other for comfort. In
fact, the aisles are about two feet wide – only enough
space for one person to pass! For a charismatic church that
encourages free movement in worship – dancing, swaying
and hand-raising – the worship center sends a totally
opposite message: "Be still!"
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
For a Pentecostal congregation, the atmosphere was rather reverential.
I was expecting it to be more rowdy and noisy. Outside the worship
center, children were running noisily in the tiny narrow hallway.
People talked in the mall lobby and there were a number of folks
seated talking to each other. The band was running through some
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
We started immediately with a song: "All creation sing
of the risen King, let the universe resound."
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
None. Everything needed to be read, sung or seen was projected
onto the two screens on both sides of the stage by high-powered
LCD projectors. Such a look is fast becoming the in
thing for churches around the Philippines to attract the younger
generations who are drifting away from traditional Christianity.
People did have their Bibles with them, though.
What musical instruments
Two keyboards, two guitars, a bass guitar and a set of drums.
Did anything distract you?
At the beginning of the singing, people began clapping and swaying
and dancing – things I feared they'd do despite the size of
the hall and the arrangement of the seats. Two hands blocked
my view of the screen, and the man standing beside me worshipped
with his hands up almost the whole time. It would have been
fine if he didn't bump me a few times.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Happy clappy in every way. Pastors and leaders here dress casually
– no clerical collars, vestments, suits, coats, or ties –
and so do the attendees. The band and the singers were very
good but the songs were all new to me, all modern. Not one traditional
hymn was sung! There was a lot of freedom in worship. People
clapped, knelt, raised their hands, jumped up and down and danced
to the beat of each song. The 20-minute-long singing moved from
one song to another interspersed with "singing in the spirit"
– a common practice among Pentecostal churches where people
are given time to sing out to God with their own words (and
in other tongues) spontaneously. The singing was followed a
time of prayer, where people who had special needs were asked
to come forward and be prayed for by the pastor. An offering
was received after a short exhortation. After the collection,
the pastor began his message and closed with an altar call.
A final song was sung as the people walked out of the hall.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 Pastor Ferdie, as he is dearly called by his parishioners,
is a typical Filipino looking and sounding man. His grammar
was almost perfect but his diction distracted me. He seemed
to have trouble with fricatives: "from" became "prom"
and "things" became "tings." But then again,
that's common among Filipinos.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
It was Mothers Day, and the sermon title was: "Warning:
Disobeying your parents may be dangerous to your health."
The pastor read two verses: Exodus 20:12 ("Honour your
father and mother") and Ephesians 6:1 ("Children,
obey your parents"). Honouring one's parents is a way to
serve and worship God. This is the only commandment with a promise,
which is prosperity, health and long life.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The music. They make pretty amazing music at Victory.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The low-ceilinged worship hall with dimmed house lights and
coloured stage lights made me feel like I was in a disco or
bar of sorts.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
I did not hang out. Very few people did – the place isn't very
conducive to that. But the people seemed really friendly.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
No coffee. Or maybe there was, I really don't know.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 If I had no other church to join in the area, I would.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
A church with a disco atmosphere.
|We rely on voluntary donations to stay online. If you're a regular visitor to Ship of Fools, please consider supporting us.
|The Mystery Pilgrim
| One of our most seasoned reporters makes the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Read here.
| Read reports from 70 London churches, visited by a small army of Mystery Worshippers on one single Sunday. Read here.