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Police-raid pastor: ‘Church is probably safer than the supermarket’

Calls for worship to go on during second lockdown, after baptism service was broken up

20 November, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Regan King: ‘Churches are an essential lifeline’

A PASTOR insists his church is probably safer than a supermarket after police broke up a baptism service due to concerns lockdown rules on gatherings were being broken.

Regan King, who has been part of Angel Church in Chadwell Street for five years, faced criticism last week after the raid by officers.

Three vans and a police car arrived at the Mount Zion Hall building after a report of a large event.

Under current coronavirus lockdown restrictions, places of worship remain open for individual prayer services and support projects, such as foodbanks, but communal services are banned.

Around 30 people were at the church building in Clerkenwell last Sunday for the baptism.

After discussion with the police, half of the group stayed at the church while the other half were taken to nearby Myddelton Square garden.

Mr King said: “The police were amazing, they allowed us to continue meeting in two smaller groups. We are thankful we were able to make that case to the police and they accepted it and continued to compromise.”

He added that the original plan was to broadcast the service.

“They [the police] would not have attended unless informed by a caller about a service of up to 100 people. We never have 100 people at our services,” he said.

Angel Church in Chadwell Street

“We are a small family church. Someone had the impression we would be packing the place out as an act of defiance. It felt a bit off that someone would respond that way.

“It was a malicious call and the person who did it must not know of all the good work we do in the community.”

Mr King has signed a legal challenge backed by more than 100 religious leaders who are calling for communion to continue in lockdown, claiming worship has been “criminalised”.

He said: “The church is probably safer than Sainsbury’s in many ways. There’s not even consensus in parliament about this. We are not alone on this one.

“There needs to be a distinction between church and state to some degree. Churches are free and in compliance with necessary health measures in society. They are an essential lifeline to many and we should continue to be allowed to meet the spiritual needs of our community.

“So many have been cut off and harmed mentally and emotionally. Not everyone has access to the internet.”

The Met police said they visited the church “after concerns were raised that he [Mr King] intended to hold an in-person service and a baptism” and explained “regulations are in place preventing gatherings and that financial penalties can be applied if they are beached”.

In a statement, it added: “Officers explained and encouraged everyone to comply with the regulations. A brief socially distanced gathering was held outside. This lasted approximately 10 minutes and following the service those in attendance dispersed without the need for enforcement action.

“A support group for vulnerable adults was permitted to proceed as normal inside the building as it was in line with the relevant legislation.”

“Officers will continue to adopt a four-phase approach to dealing with Covid regulations: ensuring they engage, explain and encourage, before moving to enforcement.”

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