SINGAPORE - A queue of about 50 people, the majority of whom were City Harvest Church (CHC) members, had formed outside the State Courts as of 6am on Friday (Nov 20).
With CHC founder Kong Hee and five other church leaders due back in court where they are likely to be sentenced, a fair number had turned up to show their support.
Court passes were handed out to those in line at around 7.20am. The man at the start of the queue - who declined to be named - said he arrived at around 10.30pm on Thursday.
A church member, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, told The Straits Times that he started queueing at 3am and said he still held trust in his leaders as "they exhibit a genuine warmness to our spiritual development through the messages in church".
"In a way, the secular system might not really understand the spiritual reasons for this project. It may be quite controversial and people may think (Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun) is trying to gain fame and achieve stardom but that's definitely not the case," said the 39-year-old, who has been with the church for a decade.
"Our objective was to reach more un-churched people, through an unusual method."
Production supervisor Sam Lew, a CHC member for the past 15 years, said he was not feeling nervous or worried about the sentencing as he had already prayed about it.
Said Mr Lew, 37: "Of course we are disappointed by the verdict but we do respect the decision of the State Courts. But (I have never wavered) in my trust in the church leaders because I believe in what God is doing in our church."
The six - Kong, 51; deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 43; former CHC finance manager Serina Wee, 38; ex-CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han, 55; former CHC finance committee member John Lam, 47; and ex-CHC finance manager Sharon Tan, 40 - were found guilty on Oct 21 of all charges ranging from criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts.
They will present their final oral arguments before the court at around 9.30am on Friday, and it is believed that a sentence will also be passed.
The prosecution has asked for stiff sentences for all six.
Kong, Tan Ye Peng, Wee and Chew could receive a jail sentence of 11 to 12 years each, while Lam faces a sentence of eight to nine years.
The lightest sentence of five to six years was reserved for Sharon Tan.
A 30-year-old teacher who declined to be named, did not want to comment on the case as she had only been with CHC for two years.
She said she had been aware of the case when she first joined the church, but it was not a deterring factor.
"We can really sense the presence of God in the church. People are not brainwashed; we really encountered God," she added.
Mr Michael Griffin, a corporate training firm CEO and 10-year CHC member, said he believed Kong was a "man of integrity" and a patriot for Singapore.
"In private or in public, Pastor Kong always speaks well of his country, of the leaders in Singapore, and has urged all CHC members to be good citizens of the nation of Singapore," said the 63-year-old.
Not everyone in the queue were church members. A 58-year-old man, who only wanted to be known as Ben, told The Straits Times that he started queuing at 3.30am.
"I'm here to listen about the case. I was here during the verdict and some trials as well. I am not a CHC member, but I'm a Christian. This is a big case and anyone would be interested to know what is going on."