Small religious group to share places of worship will create more problems
Very soon, small religious groups could find themselves sharing places of worship. In a land scarce country like Singapore, it seems just a matter of time.
No doubt that you have guessed correctly, this idea came from the Ministry of National Development (MND) to accommodate several places of worship of the same religion in a multi-storey building, sharing common facilities. The purpose is to help these groups to cut rental costs. Off one glance, it seems like a fantastic idea for religious groups as they depend greatly on offerings and donations. Furthermore, every penny counts in one of the highest cost of living like Singapore.
However, sadly to say, I hardly see this will be good for the religious groups in other areas. They will not have autonomy in operations over the place. This disempowered them in having the opportunity to be exposed to operations management and this will hinder them from moving to permanent place in future. More unforeseeable by MND, restriction in autonomy does more in depth damages. Small religious groups are impaired from building or maintaining their unique identity. For example, these could be decorations and extended worship services. Due to these, believers whether existing or new loses their sense of belonging. This bodes badly on small religious groups not only on struggle to keep the existing worshippers but also attracting new ones as well.
In terms of proximity, religious groups will prefer sites of worship to be near from MRT / bus interchange and neighborhood malls due to convenience for their worshippers. But this is unlikely to be so as the MND announced that the facility is likely to be located within or at the fringe of industrial areas.
Disruption to their worshippers’ plans will likely to reduce their attendance rate to these inconvenience sites. Poor attendance rates could be attributed to the timing of worship services. Instead of the regular worship timings, religious groups rents the facility based on a first-come-first served basis and many could find themselves with less prime timings. Fixed timings could also creates barriers as too often; worships can be longer than usual depending on the “holy” touch.
The MND can also consider building a integrated facility building comprising meeting rooms, children’s play room etc. so that the spirit of bonding and communal are not sacrificed at the expense of cost. Come to think of it, since the community clubs are long established since post-independence, can’t they be used for religious purposes. This can also create inter-religious bonding indirectly too.
As much as MND wants to save up the precious land for “others” developments, a discussion is needed between the MND and the various religious groups to sort things out as I believed any outcome will be much better than the one proposed by MND.
*The author wishes to write regularly for TRS and he hopes to write for a better Singapore.