A Contra Costa County church has been cited after sheriff’s officials allege it violated the county’s health order by holding mass on Easter Sunday.
Deputies were tipped off around 12:30 p.m. that the All Nations Church of God in Christ in North Richmond was having an unlawful gathering, officials said. A deputy arrived at the church to find around 40 people inside, none of whom were wearing masks or practicing social distancing.
Sheriff’s officials said the pastor, who was in front of parishioners, refused to speak with the deputy or cooperate in any way.
On Monday, a citation was issued to the church for violating the health order. A case was filed with the District Attorney’s office, officials said.
Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston said that although the focus of enforcing the health order has largely been on education and the request for voluntary compliance, this instance called for a different approach.
“This was different,” said Livingston. “The pastor refused to cooperate and put the lives of dozens of parishioners at risk.”
Pastor Wyndford Williams said he’s not trying to be defiant but is determined to serve his congregation.
"I am the Shepard of this flock and I want the best interest for every person here," he said.
He said that in his book, that means providing a place for his church members to worship, especially in a time of crisis.
"I was begged by members 'please pastor we need to be there,'" Williams said. "If they need me to be here, I’m going to be here to help them through this."
The church held a small prayer service Friday afternoon. Members said they're not worried about getting sick.
"We would not have had the service if we thought it was going to jeopardize lives," said Williams. "If you don’t get it, God protected you. If you do get it, I believe God can heal you. If you die from it, you’re going to be with Jesus."
The pastor said many of his members don't have access to the internet, some are homeless, and for them, going to church is essential.
"Their worship is very important to them,” he said. “It’s like going to AA for a person in treatment. They have to be in these services.”