School hall too small for Novena Church members
MOST of those who go to the popular Novena Church for Sunday mass will have to switch churches temporarily when it closes for rebuilding in October next year.
This is because Saint Joseph's Institution Junior School's hall, where interim services will be held, is not big enough for the usual 8,000-strong Sunday congregation, explained Rector Simon Tan.
The school hall, with a capacity of about 500, can fit about 1,500 people over three services. That means around 8 in 10 people will have to find new places to worship on Sunday.
Novena Church, which was gazetted for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 2011, is going ahead with its redevelopment plans despite raising just two thirds of its building-fund target of $45 million.
This is due to worries that costs might rise further in future.
The church draws around 40,000 people a week to its daily sessions, with many often forced to stand on the verandah.
For the two to three years that the 700-seat church is being rebuilt, weekday lunchtime mass and weekly Novena devotional services will be held at the Church of the Risen Christ in Toa Payoh, which can seat about 1,200.
Regular mass will continue to be held at Novena Church till September next year.
When the rebuilding is completed, the church will seat about 2,000.
"Sunday will be very challenging, because we are using a school hall," said Father Tan. "I will have to ask (worshippers) to go to other parishes."
But he added that the inconvenience is a necessary burden.
"With the rebuilding, there will be a certain amount of discomfort. People have to bear with it."
He is confident that worshippers forced to relocate for a while would return to the fold when the church is redeveloped, a sentiment shared by church-goers The Straits Times spoke to.
Banker Joseph Yeo, 44, said: "The congregation will follow the church. We have grown up with it. We may worship at other churches in the meantime, but we will still come back."
Added secretary Joan Teo, 56, when asked if she would return to the church after a few years away: "Return? Of course. I've been going to this church for two decades."
A volunteer from the nearby Church of Saint Michael in Boon Keng said that Novena Church worshippers were unlikely to head there as it is located far from an MRT station and is not very accessible.