CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A Chesterfield church, suspected of holding in-persons services in violation of Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order, has received a warning from county police.
Officer responded to Mt. Gilead Full Gospel International Ministries to investigate the claim and spoke with a member of the church’s leadership team. The church, however, was not cited. The officers provided a copy of the executive order and explained “they were seeking compliance,” a spokesperson with Chesterfield County Police told 8News. According to police, police estimate about 60-80 people were inside attending service.
Based of the investigation, a letter was sent to Bishop Robertson, that read, in part:
” A police report was documented from a call we received this past Sunday, April 19, 2020. The report outlines compelling evidence that Mt. Gilead hosted a gathering of 10 or more individuals during Sunday services. This gathering violates the Governor’s Executive Order 55, which prohibits public or private in-person gathering of 10 or more individuals. As you know, religious worship itself has not been restricted. To be clear, I am sensitive to the reality that prayer and fellowship is particularly important and comforting during these disconcerting times. Nevertheless, in-person gatherings of this nature have been lawfully and temporarily prohibited to minimize the risk of contagion of COVID-19. On-line streaming of services are absolutely lawful and I am aware that such an amenity is available to your parishioners.Col. Jeffrey S. Katz, Chief of Police, Chesterfield County Police Department
According to the letter, an officer reported “approximately 33 vehicles in the parking lot. When they attempted “to make contact to investigate,” an officer heard “music coming from the building, but no one acknowledges his presence.”
Another officer responded to the Diversity Training & Support Center on Hull Street Road where he was asked to “investigate parishioners parking their cars out of sight of Mt. Gilead to avoid detection and bused to and from Mt. Gilead.” Another officer was assigned to observe the parking lot activity at the center around 12:54 p.m. and documented seeing “three small private buses and one vehicle enter the parking lot and then seven vehicles exit the parking lot.” The buses were not seen leaving the lot.
A Chesterfield County Police Sergeant then responded to the church, but was denied entry by an executive pastoral assistant as a result of “trying to limit physical contact.” The Sergeant advised the pastoral assistant of the executive order and provider her with a copy.
According to Mt. Gilead Full Gospel International Ministries, Sunday and Wednesday services are suspended until further notice. They said they have been exclusively live-streaming services since March 22, and only letting the essential personnel needed to stream services in the building “and at no point since this time have ’60 to 80 people’ been in our worship service.”
We have a wonderful working relationship with Chesterfield Police and we appreciate their partnership as we strive to keep our members safe during this pandemic. We are a lighthouse, providing encouragement, prayer, and spiritual truth during this time. We know our members want to be in the sanctuary for worship service and we look forward to the day when we can open our doors again and welcome everyone back to our campus!Mt. Gilead Full Gospel International Ministries
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