James River Church in Missouri Under Fire After Photos Show Packed, Maskless Christmas Services

James River Church’s 2020 Christmas service. | Twitter/@Littles1126

James River Church, a multi-campus, 17,000-member megachurch in Missouri, is now fending off strong criticism from the public and health officials after pictures posted on social media showed what appear to be hundreds of unmasked people, practicing very little social distancing packed inside their Springfield location to participate in Christmas services.

“Missouri church service Saturday evening. One of six. With this much covidiocy in the country, we are proving ourselves to be the dumbest nation on earth. This is not a measure of faith. It’s a measure of arrogance,” tweeted retired attorney and flight instructor Jeanne Mann on Sunday with a photo from the gathering.

Many others voiced their concerns about the images coming out of the church over the weekend, including Springfield-Greene County Health Director Clay Goddard, who said he was “shocked” by what he saw considering Missouri currently has more than 328,000 cases of the virus and no less than 4,358 deaths since the pandemic began.

“I was shocked and deeply saddened to see photos from the James River event over the weekend. I can’t see those photos without also thinking of the images we’ve all seen of the impossible circumstances our hospitals are battling every day,” Goddard began in a series of tweets.

“Hosting a giant event without distancing or masking is irresponsible and insulting to the people on the front lines of this crisis, most especially the health care workers who are overwhelmed. An event of this magnitude, indoors and in such close proximity, combined with case numbers where they are and our hospitals full, could be devastating,” he said. “By and large, our local churches have been great examples of staying emotionally connected while protecting one another in this pandemic—this example does not do those congregations justice.”

In a statement Monday, the Christian County Health Department said they also received numerous complaints from the community about the services and urged those who attended to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms over the next 14 days.

“CCHD has been in contact with the City of Ozark, where the venue is located and where there is a current masking ordinance in place. The City of Ozark has an established process in place to investigate, enforce, and educate violators of the ordinance,” the department said before stating that it does not condone the flouting of health mandates.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair

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