Police block entrance to Clerkenwell baptism amid lockdown restrictions
- Credit: Archant
Police have prevented an evangelical pastor holding an indoor Clerkenwell church service in defiance of the national lockdown.
Under current lockdown restrictions in place until December 2, places of worship may remain open for individual prayer and community support projects such as food banks, but communal services are banned.
About 30 worshippers arrived at The Angel Church’s Mount Zion Hall building on Chadwell Street in Clerkenwell on Sunday (November 15) to attend a service and baptism, only to find the door blocked by four police officers and two police vans parked up outside.
Regan King, The Angel Church’s lead pastor, claimed he served a “higher law” and there is “no evidence that churches have been at the core of spreading this virus”.
READ MORE: Kensal Green vicar hits out at banning public worship saying government is ‘persecuting the church’He said: “Look at death rates. Something’s just not adding up.”
The 28-year-old compared himself to John Bunyan, claiming the 17th century preacher had also defied the laws of his time in the name of religion.
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He said restrictions designed to curb the spread of coronavirus had started to persecute the faithful: “The greatest safety we have is the security of our hearts and minds.”
One man, who claimed to be on the church’s pastoral team, argued with police until Regan intervened.
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After a brief discussion with police, 15 people in a support group were permitted to remain inside the church while Regan led the rest in a socially distanced outdoor gathering in Myddleton Square Gardens.
Duncan Boyd, director of the Protestant Truth Society – an organisation which aims to fight the spread of Romanism, irreligion and atheism – where Regan is a preacher, attended the outdoor service.
He told the Gazette: “It’s supposed to be a free country. We fought the Second World War to defend freedoms, or something like that.
“People freely went. No one was compelled to. They all chose to go. There’s some slight element of risk from this virus, but God is sovereign over viruses and in a free country, free people take free choices as to the risks they expose themselves to.
“For the government to say to people, ‘because there’s a risk you cannot go to church’ is illegitimate and wrong. If I have to go to prison for going to church then I will do.”
Regan also told the PA news agency: “This is an essential service that we provide. It’s about loving our neighbour, and you can talk with a number of people here who are extremely vulnerable, homeless or on the verge of being very isolated.”
One woman who went to Sunday’s service, but did not want to be named, said that during the outdoor service, Mr King had encouraged the congregation to pray for the police, the press and anyone who opposed their religious gathering.
A 22-year-old man from Lambeth, who took part in the outdoor service but did not want to be named, told PA: “While the restrictions allow people to go to the supermarket to get food, I think there needs to be consideration for spiritual food as well.”
A Met spokesman said officers spoke with the pastor following reports he intended to hold a “baptism and an in-person service”.
The spokesman said: “Officers explained that due to Covid-19, restrictions are in place preventing gatherings and that financial penalties can be applied if they are breached.
“The pastor agreed not to proceed with the baptism or the in-person indoor service.
“A brief socially-distanced outdoor gathering was held instead, which was agreed to by officers as a sensible compromise in the circumstances.”