by Gordon Lee
As I arrived for the CHC service on a Sunday morning to report from the ground, there was an endless stream of the faithful walking with me on the almost half mile route from Expo MRT station to Expo Hall 1.
It was hard to characterise the crowd as they were truly from all walks of life – young and old; families, big and small; toddlers in prams and people in wheelchairs. Along the way, there were more than a handful of cheerful volunteers helping to direct the crowd.
Everyone was casual and relaxed, and everything seemed normal. But as I unsuccessfully sought to seek opinion from several individuals (members and volunteers) who courteously turned me down, I thought I sensed some feelings of unease.
Or perhaps, it could simply have been typical Singaporean reserve.
As I entered the hall, I saw a cosy reception area and bookshop situated behind the wall of scaffolding that held up the seats for the congregation of some 7,000 strong.
At 10 am sharp, the assembly cheered as the session of praise started – a concert of religious songs led by about 100 people on stage. The congregation were on their feet, sometimes clapping, sometime with their arms in the air, and at other times with their arms around each other. Even though I am not a member of the Church, I almost found myself tapping my feet to the catchy music. Whether a believer or not, it is a moving scene and the devotion of the congregation is clear.
Some of the songs must have struck a particular chord especially at such a time for the Church – especially those with a theme of unity between the Church and God, and within the Church. As one song put it, "I will stand with you, always be with you. Knowing that Jesus keeps us closer each day. If we must be apart, in my heart I will hold you. Brothers and sisters, keeping the faith."
I glanced at the weekly Church bulletin, and on the cover it very aptly said "Hope… rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; Romans 12:12"
As Senior Pastor Kong Hee walked up to stage, tieless and in a dark suit, he was greeted with a standing ovation of support that lasted a couple of minutes. Cheers were heard, and placards were waved (one of which said "We love Sun Ho"). The atmosphere was electric.
Pastor Kong nodded his appreciation and gestured for some quiet. He then started by raising words of praise to God.
After a series of cheers, he continued to say, "You have no idea how broken I feel standing here before you. But I would like to thank you for your love and support." After reading a passage from the Bible, he said twice "Pray for us", followed by the now widely-reported "I do maintain my integrity".
As he invited his wife, pop singer Ho Yeow Sun (who also leads the Church's singing ministry and the Crossover Project) to lead the congregation to sing songs of worship, strong signs of support were once again observed. Towards the end of the worship session, Pastor Kong joined her to sing the last few verses.
I was once again struck by the spirit of community within the Church. In a church of this size, some may not have previously met in person, but the congregation sang with arms around each other, swaying to the music and singing in unison.
The two-long service ended on a high with the last song (energetic as it was) seeing Pastor Kong announcing confidently, "We'll go through this together!" In response, a handful of members responded "Pastor Kong, we love you!"
And as the music faded, the congregation streamed out of the hall and gradually, a quiet descended back over the hall.