London police blocked a church from holding a baptism service Sunday after the pastor and the congregation gathered in defiance of new Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
About 30 members of Angel Church in Islington – a borough of London – had gathered for the baptism service when police arrived and blocked anyone else from entering, the London Evening Standard reported. Police subsequently allowed the pastor, Regan King, to hold a socially distanced outdoor service.
In-person church services currently are prohibited in the United Kingdom.
King had said in a Nov. 1 video the church would continue meeting during the lockdown, because, he said, the congregation and the community needed its services.
“I believe we serve a greater good,” King said Sunday. “We have a greater good than whatever this is.”
He added he did not want any police presence.
“This is an essential service that we provide,” he said of the church. “It’s about loving our neighbor, and you can talk with a number of people here who are extremely vulnerable, homeless or on the verge of being very isolated.”
The Angel Church has helped distribute meals to the community during the pandemic.
A police spokesperson told the Evening Standard, “Officers explained that due to Covid-19, restrictions are in place preventing gatherings and that financial penalties can be applied if they are breached. After a discussion, the pastor agreed to hold a brief socially distanced outdoor gathering in the church courtyard.”
King previously said the lockdowns are harming the community.
“Many of these people need meals, they need some company, they are totally isolated, they need some meaningful human interaction and so that's what we've sought to give,” he said, according to Premier Christian News. “... I knew people who were mentally well prior to lockdown, who because of it are on the verge of psychosis and are undergoing treatment for it. I cannot in good conscience cut them off, or say just do Zoom when they can't even do Zoom, some of them don't even have the means to do Zoom… a telephone call, they're sick of. They need meaningful human interaction.
“The spiritual needs of people are as essential as the physical. The supermarkets are open for the body, but what about that food for the soul that's found in Christ alone?”
King on Sunday tweeted a painting of a family gathered around the table to eat. The painting was captioned: “Love Is Not A Crime.”
Photo courtesy: Heidi Fin/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.