Six religious groups under one roof

Six religious groups under one roof
The Tabernacle of Holiness Church’s Mr Jacob (standing) and senior pastor Xavier Dawes, 54.

CLUTCHING Bibles, pastors from the Tabernacle of Holiness Church pray for members on the sixth storey of a building in Geylang.

A few floors down, BW Monastery's devotees seeking blessings kneel at the foot of a golden statue of Buddha.

Meanwhile, a rousing chorus of praise fills the air during a service at Grace Jubilee Centre on the fourth level.

It is a Sunday at Citiraya Centre on Geylang Lorong 27 and the building, which houses two Christian churches, three Buddhist groups and a Taoist centre, is bustling.

Even as the authorities are exploring the idea of multi-storey hubs for related religious groups to ease the space crunch, as announced by the Ministry of National Development (MND) last week, small faith organisations have been coming together for years.

In most cases, the sharing is done among groups of the same faith. For instance, a five-storey church hub, housing three Christian denominations, will be completed in Jurong by the end of 2016.

There is also the United Temple on Toa Payoh Lorong 7, which houses five temples for the Hokkien, Hainanese, Teochew and Cantonese communities.

But Citiraya is "unique and rare", said BW Monastery's general secretary Lim Tiong Boon.

And it works. Sharing a home is a boon as it encourages awareness and appreciation of other beliefs, he said, which is especially useful in a multi-religious society like Singapore.

Occupants said they decided to go for the freehold Citiraya development as it is close to Aljunied MRT station, and is an affordable option for small congregations.

Each group occupies its own floor, which takes up about 3,000 sq ft, big enough for a hall, office space and a pantry.

Facilities that are shared include a carpark with 16 spaces and a lift. Each group pays maintenance fees and has a representative who is part of the building's Management Corporation Strata Title (MCST).

Tabernacle of Holiness church elder Sunny Jacob, 51, said sharing the premises is not an issue. "It's like an HDB setting - each of us has our own unit, there's no potential for conflict."

Grace Jubilee Centre's member Andrew Goh, 27, said worshippers often greet one another with a smile in the lift.

"The arrangement requires religious groups to be more open-minded and willing to share. After a while, the groups will grow to be comfortable with each other," said the engineer.

Peak periods for the different groups also take place at different times of the year. So activities, usually hosted in an open space on the ground floor and at the carpark, rarely overlap.

Friction is rare, said the occupants. And when a conflict does occur, it is usually over parking. Members rushing for services or classes sometimes jostle for the centre's limited parking spots.

But in such situations, the MCST will step in to smooth tensions. "It's about give and take, and respecting each other's needs," said BW Monastery's Mr Lim.

melodyz@sph.com.sg


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