An evangelical church is planning to defy lockdown restrictions by holding a public service, including a baptism.
Pastor Regan King, of the Angel church in north London, said he believed the ban on collective worship was unlawful and that the church would “combat any challenge against us”.
“Our priority is our fear of God … We serve a greater law,” he told BBC Radio 4. “Just because something is the law does not make it right.”
The current restrictions, which are designed to prevent the exponential rise of coronavirus across the country, were discriminatory, he added. “You can go to a garden centre, normal shops. We believe that the church is essential in its role … and so we’re staying open.”
King said the church was complying with government guidance. When churches were allowed to reopen for worship in the summer, congregations had been obliged to socially distance and wear face coverings.
Asked how he would feel if someone attending this Sunday’s service became ill or died, King said: “It would be a tragedy. But remember death is something that comes to everyone. We’ve developed, I believe, a real idol of safety, we take risks on a daily basis. We have to accept the tragedy of death … we’re pointing to hope beyond death.”
King is among 122 church leaders who have launched a legal challenge against the lockdown ban on communal worship in England.
They claim worship has been “criminalised” and the ban has “inflicted a terrible human cost” on congregations for whom collective worship is a core element of their religious life. The ban, they argue, breaches article 9 of the European convention on human rights, which protects the right to freedom of religion.
The ban on public worship has also been challenged by the leaders of the Church of England, the Catholic church and Orthodox Judaism, along with Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Pentecostal representatives.
They wrote a joint letter to Boris Johnson earlier this month saying there was “no scientific justification for the wholesale suspension of public worship”. Despite their arguments against the ban, most faith leaders are urging followers to comply with the restrictions.