(WVLA/CNN/Meredith) -- A Louisiana church hosted more than 1,800 people at its Sunday morning service, going against state and federal guidelines for social distancing to hold the service.
Pastor Tony Spell says the Life Tabernacle Church in Central believes in the “healing hand of Jesus,” even through an aggressive global pandemic.
Throughout the service, parishioners were seen touching each other and closely gathering, with very few of them wearing masks or gloves.
Twenty-six buses were used to pick people up from around the Baton Rouge area to take them to church.
Spell said if anyone in his congregation is infected with the virus, he will “heal them through God.”
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, when asked, addressed the controversial church service, with his same message from the beginning.
“I would urge [Spell] and all faith leaders to heed this directive and not necessarily engage in mass gatherings where this coronavirus can spread,” Edwards said.
Spell, however, identifies himself as a “first responder,” saying his services will not be stopped, regardless of the governor’s order to shelter in place.
"When the paramedics can't get there, when the law enforcement can't get there, the holy ghost can get there it will make a difference in someone's life,” Spell said.
More than two dozen parishioners at the service donated blood to help save lives during the outbreak.