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Evangelicalism Rising in Secular Singapore

As the seven singers, band and choir begin their opening number, the huge screen behind them lights up with real-time close-ups of their instruments and rapturous faces. The cameras, hanging by jib cranes, drift over the heads of congregants, searching for additional highlights—bodies swaying to music, eyes closed in supplication and hands upturned in celebration. Essentially, those in overt ecstasy.

Welcome to Sunday service at the 5,000-capacity Star Performing Arts Centre, home to one of Singapore’s well-known megachurches, New Creation Church. On non-service days, this space doubles as a venue for commercials shows. From the outside, the auditorium, encased in a glassy exterior at the top of the capacious Star Vista mall, looks like the command centre of a spaceship. On any day of the week, you can visit the various brand restaurants and indulge in a spot of shopping at retail outlets. New Creation Church, which co-invested in the mall with developer CapitaLand and serves 30,000 followers, conspicuously embodies evangelicalism’s growing presence and ease with consumption and modernity.

At the beginning of 2018, The Economist reported that evangelicals—among whom are many Pentecostals—made up 8% of Singaporeans in 2015, four times the figure from 1970. Seeming to signify this rising bloc of Christians, the Alliance of Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches of Singapore launched in April this year. After The Straits Times reported that the “alliance’s churches want their voices to be represented on current and international affairs”, readers sent in letters debating the place of churches in secular Singapore. The alliance, in its own letter, clarified that it does “not exist to influence local politics or pursue any political agenda”.

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