The River Church In Tampa, Florida, Packs In Worshipers, Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne Flouts Social Distancing

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A Florida megachurch packed in worshipers on Sunday morning, flouting social-distancing guidelines that prohibit gathering in large groups and in close quarters with one another, TMZ reports. The pastor says that the church will never close until Jesus Christ returns.

Tampa’s The River Church is described as a “megachurch,” a term that typically refers to Protestant congregations of 2,000 or more people, give or take. And on this Sunday morning, it was business as usual at the church, with worshipers “squeezing into close quarters like sardines,” as TMZ describes it. This happened despite warning from health officials that people should absolutely not congregate in large crowds, and should keep a distance of about 6 feet from one another, in order to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne says that, coronavirus or no, worshipers will still be welcome within the doors of The River.

“We are not stopping anything. I’ve got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place,” Howard-Browne said, referring to the term denoting the expected return of Jesus Christ.

The pastor also noted that there likely isn’t a cleaner church in Tampa, or even the country.

“We brought in 13 machines that basically kill every virus in the place, and uh, if somebody walks through the door it’s like, it kills everything on them. If they sneeze, it shoots it down at like 100 mph. It’ll neutralize it in split seconds. We have the most sterile building in, I don’t know, all of America,” he said.

So far, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has seemingly been reluctant to issue statewide stay-at-home orders, as governors of other states have done. As the New York Daily News reports, he has instead chosen to let individual cities in The Sunshine State make their own decisions about lockdowns.

According to Florida Politics, Tampa’s county — Hillsborough — does indeed have a “safer at home” order, and “non-essential” business are ordered to stay closed.

At least one Christian cleric learned the hard way that the coronavirus is not something to scoff at. As reported by The Inquisitr, Virginia pastor Landon Spradlin posted on Facebook that the “mass hysteria” surrounding the coronavirus was meant to hurt Donald Trump. However, Spradlin fell ill after a trip to New Orleans with his wife, and days later, died of COVID-19, the respiratory illness that is spurred by the coronavirus.