Shared spaces for worship may be answer to a prayer

Shared spaces for worship may be answer to a prayer

SINGAPORE - The Government is looking at housing small places of worship of the same religion in multi-storey developments, so that they can share facilities under one roof.

This will allow small churches or Chinese temples that do not require large land sites to come together in an affordable way.

In a blog post yesterday, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said his ministry is exploring the idea of housing multiple groups of the same religion in multi-storey buildings that will likely be located within or at the fringe of industrial areas.

Mr Khaw noted that while the Government has released land sites for places of worship, many small temples and churches find them too big for their needs and hence, unaffordable.

He said the proposed new concept stemmed from extensive consultations with faith groups that sought alternative solutions and are "prepared to co-share facilities and to go high-rise".

The proposed new facilities will have a master lessee who will develop as well as rent or lease out the spaces. The religious groups will share common facilities such as carparks, prayer halls and classrooms.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) called a Request for Information yesterday to seek views and proposals from churches and Chinese temples on the concept.

Religious groups such as the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) and the Taoist Federation of Singapore have met the authorities over the past three years to explore solutions to address a space crunch brought about by soaring property prices and rentals.

For instance, churches have resorted to seeking out hotel function rooms, cinemas and remote industrial areas.

Housing multiple religious groups in one compound is not new. In January, the authorities gave the green light to build a $25 million church hub to house three Christian groups in a five-storey building in Jurong.

However, an MND spokesman said that the proposed new facility will be the first to house smaller churches or Chinese temples in a multi-storey setting.

It could provide flexibility in terms of the number of same faith groups that can be housed together, depending on their needs, she added.

Religious leaders said they welcome the Government's initiative. Some churches and temples have clustered together on their own, but these are usually ad-hoc, they said.

Reverend Philip Abraham, the pastor in charge of Jurong Tamil Methodist Church, said it will be useful to have more of such complexes in land-scarce Singapore: "It's one clear way to meet the needs of small congregations where construction costs can be shared."

Venerable Seck Kwang Phing, president of the Singapore Buddhist Federation, said the association plans to survey its 130 temples and societies here to find out how many desire to be co-located.

He added, however, that the site's location is also important as worshippers in residential estates need to be catered to.

This article was first published on Dec 12, 2014.
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