Police halt baptism service that breached lockdown rules

Police officers have stopped an evangelical church from holding a baptism service in breach of the national coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

About 30 worshippers had gathered at The Angel Church in north London on Sunday before the Metropolitan Police halted the service.

Lead pastor Regan King, 28, said he wanted to hold the baptism in defiance of the restrictions because he “served a greater good”.

Pastor Regan King outside the church
Pastor Regan King outside the church

Two police vans and a police car were parked outside the church’s Mount Zion Hall building in Clerkenwell, while around four officers stood at the entrance to stop people from entering.

Mr King told the PA news agency: “We were told not to have a baptism and police began to block people from entering the church, so we decided to make other arrangements.

“There were 20 people here initially and it built up to about 30.”

Asked why he had decided to breach the restrictions, Mr King said: “Because I believe we serve a greater good. We have a greater good than whatever this is.”

Referring to the police presence, he said: “This is not something I ever wanted.

“This is an essential service that we provide. It’s about loving our neighbour, and you can talk with a number of people here who are extremely vulnerable, homeless or on the verge of being very isolated.”

Pastor Regan King holds a service outside the church
Pastor Regan King holds a service outside the church

Police allowed 15 people to remain inside the church, while another 15 took part in a socially distanced outdoor service nearby.

A 22-year-old man from Lambeth, who took part in the outdoor service but did not want to be named, said: “While the restrictions allow people to go to the supermarket to get food, I think there needs to be consideration for spiritual food as well.”

He said that during the outdoor service, worshippers prayed for the “police, press and the people who wanted to shut down the meeting”.

A Met spokesman said officers spoke with the pastor following reports he intended to hold a “baptism and an in-person service”.

The spokesman said: “Officers explained that due to Covid-19, restrictions are in place preventing gatherings and that financial penalties can be applied if they are breached.

“After a discussion, the pastor agreed to hold a brief socially distanced outdoor gathering in the church courtyard.”