WORCESTER (CBS) – A Worcester pastor is now preaching safety, after he held a weekend service with more than 50 people in attendance. The pastor has reversed course and decided to follow Gov. Charlie Baker’s order to limit gatherings to 10 people.
City leaders have clearly tried to avoid publicly locking horns with the pastor at the Adams Square Baptist Church, but they warned and pleaded with him not to repeat what happened here on Sunday, and for the time being, that appears to have been enough.
Rev. Kris Casey greeted parishioners and strangers at the back door of his church Wednesday night, but to stay within the governor’s order, only nine were allowed in for his sermon.
“On advice of my attorneys, I am not making a statement tonight,” Rev. Casey told reporters.
He’d been doing his twice weekly services on Facebook until last week when he sent certified letters to the governor, city manager, and Worcester Police to let them know he planned to host parishioners in the sanctuary Sunday, which he did, amid heavy criticism.
“To them I say I say I’m sorry, I’m sorry you feel that way,” Casey said during a service. “But I would rather upset your feelings then disappoint my god.”
Fifty-six people attended with masks and gloves, and with the exception of families, sitting six feet apart.
“Health care workers need prayer, they need gathering,” said Anthony, who came from Salem. “We need god.”
But the service clearly violated the state’s gathering limit of 10 and the pastor got a warning from city leaders.
Several neighbors defended Pastor Casey.
“He’s a humble man and is passionate about inner city ministry,” said neighbor Suzanne Longone.
In his lengthy letter to the governor, Reverend Casey contended that while he understood the gravity of the COVID-19 fight, church gatherings are protected by the constitution.
But Wednesday night, in contrast to Sunday — he pared the flock to fit within the guidelines, avoiding a second offense which could draw a $300 fine.
Despite his silence, Casey pledged he’d have more to say in the days to come, implying he is not abandoning his bid to resume more traditional services here.