United House of Prayer for All People
The United House of Prayer for All People in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of Google Maps

North Carolina Pentecostal Church Ordered to Close after COVID-19 Outbreak

By Yonat Shimron

A Pentecostal church in Charlotte, North Carolina, was declared an “imminent hazard” and ordered to close until Nov. 6 after an outbreak of COVID-19 led to more than 143 cases and at least five deaths. The closure took effect Saturday (Oct. 24).

The abatement order from the state’s health director, Gibbie Harris, was issued for the United House of Prayer for All People, which hosted more than 1,000 people at a weeklong event held Oct. 4 through Oct. 11. The event, described as a convocation, led to the largest community-based outbreak in Mecklenburg County, according to Harris.

Based in Charlotte, the Pentecostal church meets in several locations, but its leadership has refused to comply with recommendations for social distancing and wearing masks.

Harris said the church has also refused to provide information for contact tracing of those infected.

The closure was implemented in part because the church was planning a “Whirlwind Revival,” Oct. 26 to Oct. 31.

Calls to the church were not answered on Monday.

Nationwide, numerous churches have resisted state orders limiting the size of indoor gatherings and requiring social distancing guidelines. Some have sued, claiming that banning religious gatherings is a violation of the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clauses.

In Los Angeles, Grace Community Church pastor John MacArthur defied California’s COVID-19 regulations by opening the doors of his church, allowing unmasked congregants to sing in close proximity to each other.

Last week, four confirmed COVID-19 cases had been tied to Grace Community.

On Sept. 10, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge granted a preliminary injunction against Grace, prohibiting MacArthur from holding indoor worship services. MacArthur, however, has continued to hold in-person services, with congregants singing and sitting next to each other without masks.

The Charlotte United House of Prayer church is part of a network founded in the early 20th century by an immigrant from Cape Verde known as “Sweet Daddy Grace.” The churches are typically gothic monuments guarded by statues of lions on either side of the entryway. The Charlotte church has a central spire flanked by six smaller spiked spires. It has a seating capacity of 2,500 worshippers in its main sanctuary, a smaller chapel with a capacity of 700 and a parking lot with 600 spaces.

North Carolina has had more than 250,100 cases of COVID-19 and 4,100 deaths.

The state is under a Phase 3 reopening, which requires mass gathering limits to remain at 25 indoors and 50 outdoors. The mass gathering limit, however, does not apply to religious gatherings. But the state has issued recommendations for churches that call for social distancing, wearing a mask and limiting occupancy to 100 people per room or 30% of stated fire capacity, whichever is less.

Yonat ShimronYonat Shimron is a national reporter and senior editor for Religion News Service.



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6 thoughts on “North Carolina Pentecostal Church Ordered to Close after COVID-19 Outbreak”

  1. The church I attend held her first in house worship service since March
    50 on Saturday
    50 on Sunday
    No mask, no entry
    Face shields offered to those who had masks for extra protection
    Temperature was taken
    COVID-19 questions asked
    No touch hand sanitizer stations required by all entering
    4 Worship singers
    No congregational singing
    Air purifiers installed through out
    Social distancing signs placed strategically on pews
    Pew Bibles removed
    You had to bring your own
    No touching, hugs, kisses allowed
    We waved, bumped elbows
    Congregants entered front door
    Exited west door
    Another no touch Sanitation station met all when exiting
    We Praised and worshipped our Lord.
    The Pastor preached wearing a mask, in the pulpit without Associate Ministers…who were required to sit in the pew.
    Call to Discipleship
    Closing prayer
    Out the door
    No lingering allowed
    Parking lot greetings from our vehicles upon exiting
    No other fellowship
    Difficult? YES.
    Being TOGETHER after 7 months…while yet “apart” when “coming together.”

  2. Artist, just curious, is your church large? Or in an area with a large Covid outbreak?

    All of these measures taken together seem extremely strict, yet probably safe to assume your church leaders had good reasons for taking those measures.

    It is awesome you were finally together and I hope you may continue.

    My church congregation is small, we
    met outside and started meeting inside once it got too cold. We have an online stream, and allows contact based on what the individual is comfortable with. Lots of elbow bumps, yes. We also follow many of the precautions like masks, distancing, sanitizing, stay home if sick, etc.

    it’s really good to see churches assembling while taking common sense/careful/creative measures to do so.

    1. Good morning!!.

      Our congregation has 250 on average.

      Seniors and those with compromised immune systems were STRONGLY advised to continue worship via twice weekly conference calls, online and Zoom…

      We still print our weekly bulletin and mail out along with encouraging cards, letters.
      family members pick up of the pre-wrapped Lord’s Supper OUTSIDE in order to participate in Communion as we gather live via conference call.

      Members who desired to attend the on-site worship were all pre-registered via call in first.

      Children, youth, teens, continued via Zoom.

      Yes, it was an arduous process. But the end result was indeed priceless.

      But …

      This is NOT weekly however. It was a VERY successful test run.

      We are waiting for pastoral leadership to determine how often we will continue in house Worship.

  3. This church should have practiced some precautions, they deserve to be closed. This was not a broad order prohibiting worship, just one church not following precautions.

    Churches in our area of Ohio have been meeting in person for a couple of months, using every other row, distancing in rows, wearing masks until seated. Those on the platform are not wearing masks, but are distanced. Church is still streamed online for those who do not want to attend in person.

    There have not been any outbreaks related to churches in our area.

    Ohio always allowed churches to meet, just many did not for a couple of months.

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