A World Wide Rave: The Singapore Girl & Worship

Every now and then, an idea, product, or a combination of both spreads round the world like wildfire. The idea is accepted, and adopted by people all over the world. This is what David Meerman Scott terms a “World Wide Rave”. I’d like to draw some parallels.

The WWR poster with my friend Shree, an Indian studying in Australia, flying SIA

The Singapore Girl

The Singapore Girl is a World Wide Rave with humble beginnings. Synonymous with Singapore Airlines, it has done much to spread the reputation of SIA abroad.

Created by Ian Batey, the Singapore Girl is meant to embody "natural feminity, natural grace and warmth, and a natural, gentle way with people" (source: here).

Here’s where it gets tricky – in recent times, there have been criticisms that instead of being “feminine”, the image of the Singapore Girl is demeaning, sexist, and out-of-date. In fact it was even reported that she might be grounded, but SIA refuted those reports.

However, what was clear was that the Singapore Girl had to re-think itself and its advertising and portray Asian Hospitality – not Asian Subservience.

The Singapore Girl and Worship – Parallels

Just like how the Singapore Girl has contributed to SIA’s success, I think its clear that contemporary worship styles have been able to draw many people to church. In fact, it’s probably one of the biggest factors for growth in the evangelical church.

But we know that there is always a danger of people worshipping worship. We consume worship, as Louie Giglio says. We’ve created a culture where personal gratification is a feature – make people feel good (through music, through theology), and they’ll come to you. Same as how the Singapore Girl appeals to travellers need for a “servant”.

Did contemporary worship music start off that way? Probably not. The Singapore Girl was (supposedly) to feature the quality of service, not the subservience of Asian women. Worship music was meant to be for God, not human consumption.

The Problem

The problem is that it looks the same. I mean – Asian Hospitality and Asian Subservience. Is it going to look very different? Worship meant for God, worship meant for human consumption – does it look different? Probably not very. A certain form, or outward appearance may be interpreted in different ways. So what can we do about it?

Form vs. Function

It could be that after all the things we discuss on this blog, the result may still look the same. But the differences that we have will be key. Differences in understanding, in the words we use, in the running our our teams, in the knowledge of the function of what we do as worship teams.

For young people especially, who have not grown up during the emergence of contemporary music styles, we do alot of copying. Copying form without an understanding of the original function. We of course develop our own theologies of worship – but these are based on the form. It’s kind of upside-down.

Should we not instead develop an understanding of the function before applying the form? Forms are derived from their function – they are designed in a way to achieve a certain purpose. Along the way, we get caught up with maintaining the form and forget or worse, ignore the function. This is true of traditional as well as contemporary liturgy.

Creating a World Wide Rave

The desire to understand what “worship” and to a larger extent what “church” is has created a World Wide Rave. The emerging church seeks authenticity and meaning behind the forms of “worship” and “church”. And it’s spreading all over the world.

Some of the emerging churches look the same as mainstream churches – Mars Hill for example. Some don’t. But what’s important is that they always place an emphasis on the process of getting there. The discussions or “conversations” about faith, the learning about forms, about faith – that’s what’s important.

Here’s a quote from an AsiaSentinel article on the Singapore Girl:

But “what has worked well in the past is not always an indication of what will work well in the future,” says Stephen Forshaw, Singapore Air’s vice president for public affairs.  “It would be a mistake to cling to the past as a measure of success for the future.

Because if we copy form without knowing function – we’ll be empty, hollow, shells. But if we choose to never accept things at face value, if we probe the reasons behind the things we do – we might just create a World Wide Rave. In fact, I’m sure we will.

Worship has been great, but that doesn’t mean its a magic pill for all our problems.

Let’s be bold. Let’s be responsible to ourselves and those we serve. Let’s continue to explore why what we do. Let’s start a World Wide Rave.


~ by jonhyz on February 6, 2009.

5 Responses to “A World Wide Rave: The Singapore Girl & Worship”

  1. Wow. Great photo. Thank you for sharing. David

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