More than a thousand worshipers gathered on a beach in California on Sunday evening to protest the state’s latest lockdown order against churches and other types of establishments.
According to NBC 7 San Diego, Pastor Barry Sappington, who helped organize the gathering on Cardiff State Beach near San Diego, said of the participants, “They miss worshipping. Worship is a core part of a Christ follower’s life, and as you can see, people don’t want to go anywhere. They want to gather, they want to worship, and this is a perfect venue for them to do so.”
Sappington claimed to NBC 7 that a permit had been issued for the protest, though California State Parks Lifeguards claimed otherwise. They estimated the crowd to be more than 1,250 people.
Heather Molchanoff, a local resident who was in attendance, told NBC 7, “It’s such a double standard, right? You have protesters who can go out, do gatherings like this, and nothing is spoken about; if anything, it’s praised. But then we’re not allowed to gather in church on Sunday.”
Sean Feucht, a musician who attended, tweeted a video of his son being baptized in the Pacific Ocean during the event. Feucht has also attended other events of a similar nature, in which groups of Christians gather weekly on southern California beaches as part of a movement called “Saturate OC.”
State officials estimated 5000 on the beach in San Diego tonight. I am undone at the movement God is pouring out across America!!!
BUT THIS MOMENT RIGHT HERE my son Ezra was baptized tonight 😭😭😭#LetUsWorship pic.twitter.com/IT9CQL9A1T
— Sean Feucht (@seanfeucht) July 27, 2020
Could this be the beginnings of another Jesus People Movement in California? pic.twitter.com/aD89YsOfGh
— Sean Feucht (@seanfeucht) July 11, 2020
According to The Orange County Register, Parker and Jessi Green started Saturate OC after moving from New York City in 2016, after Jessi claimed to have had a vision of performing baptisms in the ocean off Huntingdon Beach, California.
“We’ve taken the last year to prepare for this event,” she told The Register. “We had no idea we would do it in the middle of a pandemic when most churches are closed. But that’s just the way it turned out.”
Since the movement began on July 3, hundreds have been meeting each week on Orange County beaches for revival, baptism, and worship, despite resistance from local authorities. The city government of Huntington Beach ordered the event to be canceled because organizers did not follow coronavirus health precautions and had not obtained the requisite permits, according to officials. “You can’t cancel Jesus,” Jessi Green told the crowd that gathered anyway.
Orange County has seen a surge of coronavirus cases, making it the most infected county in California behind Los Angeles. On July 13, Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued another round of lockdown orders, after initially rolling back the ones from March. Thirty counties, or about 80% of the state’s population, were placed under the new order, which shuts down houses of worship as well as restaurants, bars, gyms, and other types of businesses.
Pastor John F. MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, also made headlines last weekend when he and the church elders issued a lengthy statement explaining their biblical basis for believing that the state had overstepped its legitimate authority by suspending in-person religious assembly indefinitely.
Related: ‘Compliance Would Be Disobedience’: Prominent California Church Defies State Lockdown To Resume In-Person Assembly