City Harvest case: Sight of tired church leaders triggers emotions

(From left) Tan Ye Peng, John Lam, Kong Hee, Serina Wee, and Sharon Tan during the hearing on Aug 1, 2017.
(From left) Tan Ye Peng, John Lam, Kong Hee, Serina Wee, and Sharon Tan during the hearing on Aug 1, 2017.ST ILLUSTRATION: MIEL
There were about 80 people in the queue to get passes to enter the courtroom at 7am yesterday, but only 55 managed to get them.
There were about 80 people in the queue to get passes to enter the courtroom at 7am yesterday, but only 55 managed to get them.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Members of City Harvest Church (CHC), used to seeing glamorous church leaders who commanded reverence and respect, were confronted with a starkly different image in court yesterday.

The sight of their former leaders looking tired in the dock left many, who had turned up in court early in the morning, feeling emotional.

The church members were among a queue of some 80 people, that started at 2am, trying to get passes to enter the courtroom for the hearing involving the six convicted CHC leaders.

The mood outside the courtroom was sombre, with supporters huddled in small groups and speaking quietly to each other.

There were many wet eyes, especially after the church members entered the courtroom and had a look at their leaders. One young female supporter, who declined to be identified, said: "Of course, it is emotional. We love them so much."

Another member, who has been with the church for 20 years and wanted to be known only as Ms Tan, said: "We can only pray and hope for the best... Seeing them in the dock is sad but we feel more for their families as it has been hard on them, especially those with children."

Even non-members were moved by the sight of the church leaders' decline.

One attendee, who identified herself only as Mrs Parkany, said: "As a Christian, I could not believe there were pastors like that, in their Armani suits and all, and I was very opposed to them. I came here today to make sure they got the highest possible punishment.

"But when I went inside and saw the pastor, I was crying. It's so scary - in the purple prison jumpsuit, he looks so old and tired now."

Despite the heavy mood in court, members remained optimistic about the church. Some said the morale in the church remains high and that their services are "even more glorious than ever".

They described a united front, with people still regularly attending services and "praying fervently" while "waiting for the pastor to come back".

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2017, with the headline 'Sight of tired church leaders triggers emotions'. Print Edition | Subscribe