Minister and musician Sean Feucht urged his fellow Christians to join him under the Sundial Bridge in Redding for a night of worship.
"Bring a mask (we’ll have some if you need). Spread out. Let’s worship Jesus and love on our city!" he said on Twitter.
That prompted a stern reprimand from the Shasta County Health & Human Services Agency, which recommended that anyone who attended should get tested for the coronavirus and self-quarantine for 14 days.
"We truly empathize with all who have had to change the way they worship in the past few months," the agency said in a news release. "Very sadly, some of our local cases of COVID-19, including hospitalizations, have resulted from faith gatherings, and it’s critical that our faith community leaders continue to offer safe services that follow the state guidelines."
Outdoor religious gatherings are permitted in the county, provided that people wear masks and keep at least six feet apart from those outside of their households.
The health agency noted in its statement that "there was much physical touching" at the event, and the crowd was too large to fit in the area around the bridge while maintaining social distancing.
As of Friday, Shasta County had 291 confirmed coronavirus cases, with five people hospitalized and eight dead from the virus.
The health agency's news release pointed out that people have had to give up graduations, weddings and beloved community events like the Redding Rodeo. It warned that if the county ends up on the state's watch list, children will not be able to attend school in person, and businesses and churches will face tighter restrictions.
Feucht, who could not be reached for comment, is holding "Let Us Worship" events around the country, including in Pasadena and Bakersfield earlier this week and Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas in the coming weeks.
A flier for one of the events, in San Diego on Sunday, urges attendees to "Please bring a mask and practice social distancing between households."
In a video filmed Friday before the Bakersfield event, Feucht appeared in a park with the city's mayor, Karen Goh.
"We're socially distanced, we want to follow the guidelines, we want to worship," he said.
Pasadena police did not receive any calls about the gathering at 400 W. Claremont St. on Thursday evening, said Lt. Marcia Taglioretti.
Officers are not making arrests for social distancing or mask violations, but they attempt to educate the public about the requirements, she said.
In a video on Feucht's Twitter page, labeled "Let Us Worship — Live — Pasadena," Feucht plays the guitar, accompanied by a drummer.
The crowd, closely packed and maskless, sings: "He's got the whole world in his hands."