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Coronavirus Update: Richmond Pastor Vows To Continue Church Gatherings After Being Cited For Easter Service

RICHMOND (CBS SF) -- A Richmond pastor said Friday he'll continue to hold Sunday services even after the sheriff's department ticketed him for having Easter service. It is the first known citation given to a Bay Area religious organization for defying the shelter-in-place order.

Pastor Wyndford Williams with All Nations Church of God in Christ said church is essential business for the soul. He plans to fight the ticket.

About 40 people packed the small church at 1225 York Street on Easter Sunday. The Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department said there was no social distancing and no masks. They said the pastor refused to stop service even after a deputy showed up.

"Trust that we would not put anybody in the public in any danger because we're taking the precautions," said Williams.

He painted a different picture, saying they provided hand sanitizer and handed out masks as church goers walked through the front door and parishioners sat six feet apart.

"We have not had one (COVID-19) case in our church.  We have not had one case and we have close to 100 members here," claimed Williams.

A neighbor told KPIX 5 he did not see parishioners with masks on Easter Sunday, at least not while they were outside. The sheriff's department said, bottom line, there cannot be any large gatherings. They cited the pastor for violating the health order.

"I'm disappointed that there is this kind of bullying of the church in these times," said Williams.

Three people showed up for Friday's noon prayer service.

"I just had a sister that died from cancer," said a church goer who declined to provide her name. "So I watched her die and cancer didn't have nothing to do with COVID, so when God says our time is up, our time's up. I'm not afraid."

Williams said he's not being selfish or jeopardizing people's lives, and he'll continue to hold Sunday services online and in-person since some members don't have internet access.

"We will not stop having church services," said Williams. "But we will follow the guidelines, maybe they'll sit in their cars and (we'll) only permit so many people in (the church) at a time."

The ticket did not provide a citation amount, and the sheriff's department declined to comment. They filed the case with the district attorney's office for prosecution.

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