10 January 2012


Paul and I yesterday attended our Singaporean church service for the first time in weeks. We were amazed by the amount of people in line for the 2:30 service, the third of four yesterday. The earlier the service, the longer the line, but this is the third service. Sometimes we do see lines for the 2:30 service, but none like this one.

We decided to forego the line and head to one of the overflow rooms where we knew we could have a seat. The service started late because of the amount of people still trying to get into the facilities. We were advised that last week, more than 32,500 people attended the four services and that yesterday, people were in line at 4:30 a.m. to get seats in the first service at 8:30. At 6:30, people began lining up for the 10:30 service – two hours before the first service even started!

Maybe Paul is right – Singaporeans really do like to stand in lines. I don’t get it.

Whether they do or not, it is amazing that people will stand in line for four hours to get a seat in a church service. I know people who camp out for concert tickets or midnight showings of popular movies, but I have never heard of people waiting for hours to get into a church service.

My writing will not do the enthusiasm Singaporeans have in church justice but I will do my best. I spent the first few weeks just watching people since I knew zero worship songs – I would be lucky to find one song every two services that was familiar – and we were just learning Singlish.

I quickly observed that Singaporeans are some of the loudest and most active worshipers I have ever seen. The more tone deaf someone is, the louder he or she sings, eyes closed, arms raised, body bouncing as if the person was participating in a Zoomba class. Age does not matter, either. Older men who may take ten minutes to walk five feet will stand and bounce and shout alongside the teenagers.

I used to think that some people around me looked a little ridiculous. Then I saw myself on screen as the camera captured me, standing straight, not singing because I did not know the words, not clapping, not jumping, arms loosely crossed, and I realized that I looked like the idiot among the masses. I admit that I do not jump around, but I move a little to the beat. It took four months for me to know each of the four or five songs sung at the beginning of a service, but I did eventually catch on.

With such a large congregation in a series of small rooms, it is obvious that not everyone gets to see our pastor preach live – hence the standing in line for four hours. I find it amusing that people in the overflow rooms talk to the screens as if a real person were standing in front of them. The pastor does not preach live to the late service but even then, while watching the tape, people will shout at the screen and answer questions any pastor will ask.

We are unable to take photographs or videos since the sermons are broadcast both locally and internationally, so you will just have to picture it. Sometimes I chuckle to myself. This is Singapore.

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