Nottinghamshire Police issued the pastor of the Church on the Streets a £10,000 fine (equal to $14,151.85 U.S.) on Saturday for conducting a church service in a car park of a local pub.
According to the BBC, officers arrived in Bardney Drive, Bulwell around 12:15 GMT and found approximately 30 people participating in the service. Tents, food and a sound system were also on-site for the church gathering.
The U.K. government guidance for safe worship during COVID-19, last updated January 19, 2021, defines a place of worship as “a building used for regular religious ceremonies, communal worship or similar gatherings by religious organisations. … including surrounding grounds … the guidance also covers premises when being used for religious gatherings, even when their primary purpose is not for religious gatherings, such as a community centre. These premises will only be able to be used where they are permitted to be open and additional guidance may be applicable … This guidance does not cover educational establishments public parks, private homes, cultural sites or other open spaces.”
Nottinghamshire Police Inspector James Walker told the BBC that the issued fine was a ‘last resort’ as the agency had been warning this group the prior week of holding unlawful gatherings.
"Initially, we have been engaging, explaining, and encouraging as to the importance of following the current national lockdown restrictions, which is to protect the NHS, save lives and keep people safe. This has been our immediate approach throughout the coronavirus pandemic and will continue to be,” Walker said.
"Whilst the rules state you can attend places of worship, this car park is evidently not a place of worship and, despite the warnings given over the last week in particular, this event continued to go ahead and that is why today we have implemented our last resort of enforcement.
Pastor and organizer Chez Weir told the BBC she had been working with the police and was recently told not to use a different car park, but not this one. Weir said she did not realize the restriction applied at this lot as well.
"We've looked at the guidelines and they are very vague," she said.
"I'm really disappointed. I'm going to challenge it because I don't believe I've done anything wrong."
Under the current guidance, gathering at places of worship is allowed but with limited attendance and shorter services. Further, the guidance recommends places of worship avoid large in-person gatherings by streaming worship or other events when possible.
"We do recognize that the majority of the local public are adhering to the current restrictions that are in place and we thank those people that are doing so for their patience during what is a difficult time for everyone,” said Inspector Walker.
Photo courtesy: Nico Smit/Unsplash, this is a stock photo
Crystal A Dixon is contributing writer at ChristianHeadlines.com, Devotableapp.com. Visit her blog at crystaladixon.com