Last Sunday was the first Sunday Kong Hee, the senior pastor of Singapore's megachurch Christian Harvest Church, returned to church for the first time after being convicted of misappropriating church funds. Kong Hee faced a packed auditorium at Suntec convention centre, took a deep bow, and said: "Pastor is sorry."
Pastor Kong Hee, who founded the City Harvest Church, was convicted this week of lavishing millions of dollars in church funds to boost the career of wife Ho Yeow Sun. Five other church leaders were also found guilty in the case that has shocked the country. Ho, a co-founder of the church who also performed under the stage name of 'Geisha', was not criminally charged in the case.
The service began at the sixth level of the convention centre with songs of worship. About 40 minutes later, Kong took the stage. The others involved in the case - other than former CHC investment manager Chew Eng Han - were sitting in the front rows. Kong assured that the church's future was secure, "because of you and the new leadership that has been put in place". He added: "Out of the ashes, we will rise."
He apologised for the "pain and turmoil" members of his church had to endure over the past few years, and bowed three more times in different directions as the congregation stood up and applauded for a good length of time.
Kong did not preach, rather American pastor A.R. Bernard gave a sermon on keeping trust in spite of tribulations. Kong and his wife Ho Yeow Sun closed the service with a song. Ms Ho, the church's executive director, said: "Thank you for being here, for being courageous and supportive. Thank you for your love. It has made a difference for all of us and our family members. Thank you, thank you, thank you."