The Dislocation of Charisma: A Case Study of New Creation Church, Singapore

 

The Dislocation of Charisma

A Case Study of New Creation Church, Singapore

Graham Link, Yale-NUS College ‘17

(Initially published in YNUJ Volume 1, 2016)


Abstract

This ethnographic research project explores the relationship between charisma, institutional structure, and physical space in New Creation non-denominational megachurch. New Creation was founded in Singapore in 1984, and currently boasts a registered congregation of 31,000.1 It has since expanded from its original site into six different service venues around the country. All of these venues are public, commercial spaces such as concert halls, theatres, or ballrooms. The physical service is conducted by Senior Pastor Joseph Prince only at Star Vista Theatre (owned by New Creation), whilst being live-streamed to the other five venues for virtual services. Since his appointment in 1990, Pastor Prince has become a widely known figure in television ministry and Christian mass media.2 He has authored several popular self-help books and routinely tours the global megachurch ‘circuit’. As a result, New Creation services are largely grounded in his status as charismatic figurehead. Somewhat paradoxically, the use of mass commercial venues and virtual services accompanies this individual centricity. The study thus examines both charisma and organisational structure, particularly as they intersect with space and locality. Drawing on Marc Augé’s formulation of the ‘supermodern non-place’, it considers how individual charisma is delocalised across the institution of the megachurch.3 The study’s methodology comprises ethnographic fieldwork at the weekly Star Vista services as well as the virtual ‘satellite’ services, engaging in both observation and casual interviews where possible. A comparative approach to ‘home’ and ‘satellite’ services pushes these issues of (dis)location to the fore.


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