Executive pastor releases good news a week ahead of the church’s annual general meeting.
By The City News Team
On the weekend of July 21 and 22, the executive pastor of City Harvest Church, Aries Zulkarnain made two announcements during service that surprised and delighted the congregation.
These announcements come a week before the church’s annual general meeting. This move is in accordance with the Commissioner of Charities’ suggestion that the church reveals developments in its Suntec investments to its congregation.
The first piece of good news centered on the 2011 Building Fund campaign.
“For our Building Fund campaign last year, we pledged a total of S$23,640,715,” said Zulkarnain.
“By the end of the Building Fund period this year, we had collected S$22,687,651!
“This is a very healthy 96 per cent fulfilment, better than previous years.”
Zulkarnain praised the congregation for standing firm and for staying focused on the mission of CHC.
“To have a place for worship is why we have our Arise & Build Campaign to raise the Building Fund. And because of your giving and your prayers, we have met our objective,” he said. “We have successfully secured a place for our weekly services in the marketplace, for the marketplace, to serve the marketplace.”
Loud cheers gave way to louder applause when Zulkarnain proceeded to reveal that the church’s shareholding in Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre has increased.
“In 2010, CHC, through our wholly-owned subsidiary, Urban Property Investments Limited acquired 20 percent effective shareholding for an aggregate purchase price of S$43,750,000 in Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre in 2010. Last year, it acquired an additional 19.2 percent for a purchase price of S$54,000,000,” said the pastor.
“Together with our acquisition in 2010, CHC now has an effective shareholding of 39.2 percent in the property for an aggregate purchase price of S$97,750,000.
“The balance 60.8 percent effective shareholding in the Property is held by Suntec Harmony Pte Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Suntec REIT.
“To put it simply, we are co-owners of this property together with Suntec REIT.”
Zulkarnain explained that the S$97,750,000 forms part of the S$310,000,000 budget that was previously announced to the church.
“The balance amount is for the committed rentals; the optional rentals in the coming years; refundable rental deposits; furniture, fittings and equipment costs, and periodic shifting costs,” he said.
The pastor also revealed that initially, with the purchase of this additional stake, the total budget would have reached S$327,000,000, which is S$17,000,000 above CHC’s original planned budget of S$310,000,000 for the property. But this will not be the case.
“We are still able and committed to keep to our original budget of S$310,000,000 because our team has worked very hard to reduce the costs of shifting,” said Zulkarnain.
CHC’s “ownership-and-lease” model uses the share of dividends from the property to fund part of the rental costs for running weekend services.
“We arrived at a budget of S$310,000,000 by calculating the point at which the return of our investments will cover most of the yearly rentals,” he explained.
“CHC intends to eventually become self-sustaining in respect to payments of future rentals.”
Zulkarnain said that the value of the property is expected to increase following the ongoing Asset Enhancement Initiative that Suntec REIT has embarked on for the convention center. Suntec REIT has budgeted S$180,000,000 to carry out upgrading works, which include creating two levels of retail space.
To facilitate this upgrading, CHC will be holding its services for a period of time at Singapore Expo starting September 2012.
The executive pastor ended his announcement with a reminder to the congregation to keep its eye on the true reason for the Suntec investment.
“As we have always said, we are not into building buildings, but we are into building lives. The reason for our existence is to love God wholeheartedly and love people fervently. We are committed to keep serving our members and our community, to fulfill the Great Commandment, the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate,” he said.
“All we have done these 23 years has been in obedience to God and His call. I want to thank each one of you for your faithfulness and for running this race together as a church.”
Members were pleased with what they heard tonight.
“I am really proud of our members,” said Roslind Yip, 38, a product consultant. “Last year’s Building Fund period was the only one that happened after the investigations began. That the congregation fulfilled over 95 percent of the pledged amount is fantastic news! I don’t think we have seen such high fulfillment rate for a long time. It shows the hearts of our people are really set on God and what He wants for City Harvest.”
“I’m very pleasantly surprised by the fact that CHC holds a 39.2 percent stake,” says Mario Singh, 36, the CEO of FX1 Academy. “Clearly there are only two shareholders—Suntec REIT and CHC. To me, it means that our leadership has done everything it aimed to do, which has always been to use the Building Fund in an intelligent way, investing it so that it keeps growing. So it’s not just increased through the congregation’s giving, but this money is also multiplying itself.”
Student Ng Tze Wei, 13, joined the church with his parents when was he was 6 years old. He has given to every Building Fund campaign in the last seven years. “I sowed into church because I want to build God a great house. And in return, my Children’s Church teachers and friends and now my cell group members have sowed into my life in a great way. I’m really proud to be in City Harvest Church.”