On Wednesday, Awaken Church in Jonesboro, Arkansas, posted a Facebook message that outlined its intention to continue holding church service amid the coronavirus pandemic, Raw Story reported. In the post, the church claimed that Jesus Christ was the first person to die from COVID-19.
“The first death of Covid 19 actually happened 2000 years ago,” the post reads. “The Bible tells us that Jesus took on every sin, sickness and every disease…Jesus bore it so you wouldn’t have to. Salvation provided forgiveness and healing…if you’ll believe it, you can receive it!”
In a previous update, the church claimed it would follow recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) but said that shutting down services would be a violation of their “extremely strong convictions” relating to God’s power to protect and heal.
“Jesus knew the world He was sending us into contained sickness and disease. Instead of telling us to retreat from sickness, He told us to go into the world and to heal the sick.”
Speaking to Newsweek, Chad Gonzales, a lead pastor at Awaken Church, expressed his belief that churches play an important role in difficult times like the coronavirus pandemic. He claimed that the world shouldn’t turn to the government for a “source of hope” but turn to the church for “hope and healing and the calm.”
Per THV11, the defiance of Awaken Church comes not longer after Pastor Mark Palenske of Greers Ferry First Assembly, his wife, and dozens in his congregation reportedly tested positive for coronavirus.
In a Facebook post announcing the infections — which came after the church continued to hold in-person services amid the pandemic — Palenske warned that the “intensity” of the coronavirus is being underestimated by many and urged people to take it “very seriously.”
This is 90-year old Bill Barton. He was one of the first to die in #Arkansas from #Covid19. He was a beloved church greeter at Greers Ferry First Assembly of God church. This is from the church’s FB page: “We lost a dear brother ..to this dreaded virus. Our hearts are broken..” pic.twitter.com/ktranusryt
— Dawn Scott (@dawnerscott) March 26, 2020
Although Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has banned gatherings of 10 or more people, Awaken Church noted that this order did not include religious congregations. As The Inquisitr previously reported, churches across the country are closing amid bans of large gatherings. While some are taking advantage of online avenues to continue providing service, many will likely have to shut their doors for good due to the outbreak.
As of Thursday, there are 624 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas, and 10 people have died from the disease caused by the coronavirus. As noted by Raw Story, Arkansas is one of five states in America without an active stay-at-home order in any of its regions. In the South, it is the only state without such an order.