Singapore megachurch City Harvest Church has been forced to move its weekend services online over fears surrounding the coronavirus.
The church, led by high profile pastor, Kong Hee, who only last year was released from prison after being convicted of misusing church funds, made the decision as the virus wreaks havoc in Asia. With 16,000 people attending the church, the church has stated that going online is a ‘temporary measure’.
“In view of the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 this past week, we have decided the best thing for our congregation is to bring service online,” the church said in a statement. “This means, we do NOT meet physically at Suntec for service, but stay home and worship online together through The CHC App or our website.
“Our plan is to do so starting this weekend (15-16 February) until the end of February. Going online is a temporary measure. We look forward to the day when the situation stabilizes, and we can meet together for service again. Meanwhile we are monitoring the situation closely and will keep you all updated.
“This is not an easy decision for us to make—you know that we love coming together as the body of Christ to worship the Lord. But our congregation is not small, and we have members young and old. As leaders, we feel strongly we must do what we can to protect our flock, as the risk of infection is relatively high right now. “
This is not a small move for a church whose weekly running costs would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, however the coronavirus has spread to Singapore and the risk of such a large crowd of people gathering in such a small space was not a risk the church was prepared to take.
“Having our services online will also help us make sure church can go on during this time,” the church continued. “We are grateful to the Lord we have our online facilities, so we can stay connected for weekend services through the Internet.
“We will be preparing the service to be broadcast at our usual meeting times: English service on Saturday at 5pm and Sunday at 10am; Chinese service on Sunday at 10am. Do join us for service with your family and worship the Lord at the same time.
“Also, we want you to stay connected with your cell group and keep each other in prayer. Your pastors and leaders continue to be available for you during this time. Let us be united in spirit.”
The church’s leader was convicted in 2015 of Criminal Breach of Trust in the Singapore courts and served his sentence at Changi Prison until the 22 August 2019.
Following a 2012 arrest and a trial beginning in 2013 into the allegations that Kong and five other church leaders illegally used $24 million of church funds while misusing another $26 million in a cover-up, Kong was found guilty in 2015 as the “key man” behind the scandal who had guided his five accomplices by the Singapore court of three charges of criminal breach of trust.