A worship event over the weekend in Nashville, Tennessee, attracted as many as 10,000 guests — many of whom were not wearing masks or socially distanced, according to the event organizer, local media reports and videos shared online.
It isn’t the first Christian revival to do so.
Worship leader Sean Feucht has hosted a series of revivals across the country in defiance of local health officials’ warnings, Business Insider reported in August. The event in Nashville was one of six he has planned for October, including a revival Monday night in Charleston, South Carolina, according to Feucht’s website.
“A police officer escorting me out tonight said he estimated 9,000-10,000 worshippers filled the courthouse steps in downtown Nashville!” Feucht said Sunday on Twitter. “We had THREE venue changes and so much resistance BUT THE CHURCH WILL NOT BE SILENCED!”
A police officer escorting me out tonight said he estimated 9000-10,000 worshippers filled the courthouse steps in downtown Nashville!
We had THREE venue changes and so much resistance BUT THE CHURCH WILL NOT BE SILENCED! #LetUsWorship pic.twitter.com/E1r26Z07tl
— Sean Feucht (@seanfeucht) October 12, 2020
Health officials investigating
Feucht’s revivals have attracted hundreds, if not thousands, of attendees in close quarters with little concern for local and state health guidelines designed to curb the spread of COVID-19. A 15-second video clip Feucht posted of the Nashville event on Monday showed a throng of people in a tightly packed crowd singing in front of the courthouse.
Makayla McKibben, 23, who attended the revival, told The Tennessean some of the people in the crowd chose to socially distance and wear masks while others did not.
She called the event a form of “worship protest.”
“The state of the world is crazy right now,” McKibben said, according to the newspaper. “I believe the only way we’re going to see healing through this is Jesus. It was a picture of unity. Having an event like last night and making a stand as a church — people are going to see that. I want to be part of that.”
Historian Larry Eskridge told The Washington Post that Feucht is tapping into people’s desire to get outside and be in communion with each other, specifically conservative Christians who believe God will protect them in a pandemic.
“The regulations on meeting together are seen as a violation and insult to God,” Eskridge said, according to The Post. “Interfering with revival is interfering with God’s work.”
But local health officials disagreed.
The Metro Nashville Public Health Department said in a statement on Facebook it is investigating “the event that took place Sunday in front of the Metro Court House.” Officials said Feucht didn’t have a permit nor did he submit an application to the city.
“We have worked very hard to slow the spread of COVID by taking a measured approach to protect the community,” the statement reads. “The Health Department is very concerned by the actions that took place at the event and we are investigating and will pursue appropriate penalties against the organizer.”
Feucht — who once prayed with President Donald Trump in the Oval office, according to Fox News — has drawn criticism from health experts who say his revivals “could turn into COVID-19 super-spreader locations,” Business Insider reported.
The California-based praise and worship leader is a “missionary, artist, speaker, author, activist and the founder of multiple worldwide movements,” according to his website. After an unsuccessful campaign for Congress on the Republican ticket, Religion News Service reported Feucht started the #LetUsWorship movement when state and local health officials closed churches during the coronavirus pandemic.
The media outlet described his events as “a mix of Christian concert, healing service, guerrilla street theater and spectator mosh pit, (and) feature the kind of public singing forbidden under many COVID-19 regulations.”
Historian and author Randall Stephens told The Post that Feucht fits into “a larger movement of hippie Christianity, where people dress casually and get rid of anything that seems institutional.”
Feucht has also targeted his events at cities racked by racial unrest, including Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon — a move protesters said detracted from their anti-racism messages, The Post reported.
“I came out against BLM (as an org, not as statement) last week and got blasted online by enemies and friends alike,” Feucht said in a June 10 Facebook post. “This is not a ‘told you so’ moment at all, because I feel the church is genuine in its desire to stand against racism and injustice. But we can’t let our God-given empathy get hijacked by a dark movement with hidden agendas.”