Police broke up a service being held at a church in Cardiff, Wales, Sunday evening because members were meeting in defiance of new lockdown measures that had been implemented two days prior. Congregant Naomi McLennan took a Facebook Live video of the incident, showing what happened when police officers disbanded the New Hope Community Church service.
“It’s a strange season,” wrote the church when it reposted the video on its Facebook page. “If someone would have said a year ago that gathering to worship your God and praying together would be interrupted and disbanded by the police, no one should have believed it. But here we are. 2020. Wales. Uk. It is an illigal [sic] thing to gather. To sing. See for yourselves. Daniel 6:10.”
New Hope Community Church Pushes Back
The Welsh government recently imposed a “firebreak lockdown” that runs from Oct. 23 to Nov. 9. The term “firebreak” refers to the fact that the lockdown is intended to be a brief, focused strategy to curb the spread of COVID-19. On its website, the government explained why it was implementing this lockdown, saying, “The fortnight-long action is needed to save lives and prevent the NHS [National Health Service] from being overwhelmed. Cases of coronavirus have been rising sharply in Wales as the virus has woken up for winter.” According to the site,
Between October 9 and 15, there were 4,127 new confirmed cases of coronavirus recorded by Public Health Wales, based on positive test results but the real level of infections will be much higher. The number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms is growing daily and sadly so too are the number of people dying with coronavirus.
The lockdown restrictions require people to stay home “except for very limited purposes” and ban them from meeting with others from outside of their households. About 30 people with New Hope Community Church met for Sunday worship anyway, although the church took attendees’ temperatures and it appears from the video that most were wearing masks.
“So we’re at church right now, and the police just showed up,” said Naomi McLennan near the beginning of the video. “And so they’ve knocked on all the windows and all the doors, they’ve shined flashlights, so please pray for us right now. Yep, so I’m just letting you know that that’s what’s happening. This is in Cardiff. We’re not even in a third-world country right now. This is in Cardiff.”
One of the police officers explained the regulations to the pastor and congregants and said police had received phone calls from concerned people who had seen the church members entering the building. The officer said the congregants needed to leave and worship at home while they wait for the lockdown to “blow over.”
Pastor McLennan responded, “This is really strange and, I say it respectfully, we love you guys as police officers, and we are not law-breaking people. Please hear me. But when they say to us that it is illegal to come and worship our God, this is the West, forgive me, this isn’t a nation somewhere far off somewhere else.”
The officer countered that no one is saying it is illegal for New Hope Community Church to worship God, but rather the government is saying not to gather indoors within certain parameters. The pastor disagreed, and there was some more back and forth between the two of them, after which Pastor McLennan acquiesced. One woman said, “You’ll be asking us not to believe next.” The officer told her, “As a Christian myself, I am not going to do that. I have a Christian family. My own mother is finding other ways to pray.”
More discussion and debate then ensued among the police officers, the pastor, and the church members. The officer then said he and his colleagues would leave and give the church members a few minutes to pray and gather their belongings. At one point one church member said, “I cannot believe they are making church illegal. This is not communist China.”
After the police stepped out, Pastor McLennan said he wanted church members to understand that they are not against the police officers, who are simply having to enforce a law they did not pass. He told everyone that they are a “law-abiding people,” as evidenced by the fact that they are not “stealing stuff and hurting people, destroying things.”