Despite calls to close, Dickinson church holds in-person Easter service

Published: Apr. 12, 2020 at 7:54 PM CDT
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While many people attended Easter services online this morning, one church in Dickinson isn't closing.

New Life Pentecostal Church held in-person services at 11 a.m. MT.

CDC guidelines say no more than 10 people should be gathered in any room at a time. Still, the church’s parking lot had dozens of cars in it as services began.

Pastor Bob Simons says he expected about 100 people to pack the pews for Easter service.

As many make their way into church, they say they feel like they have a constitutional right to be there.

"For myself, I feel like we have the individual rights, if I want to get sick, then I can be sick. I hope I don't get it and hope nobody else does," said Warren Miller, New Life Pentecostal member.

Governor Doug Burgum, R-N.D., asked people to stay home, but said churches like New Life wouldn't face legal consequences.

"Because of the individual rights of our country, each individual should make a decision about whether they want to place themselves or their loved ones in a potential risk situation," said Burgum on Friday when asked about churches staying open Easter weekend.

Off-camera, Simons told us the church is taking steps to avoid the spread, including spacing out pews, telling the elderly and people with immune system issues to stay home, and making sure people are sanitizing their hands as they enter the building.

He also set up an audio stream online for those who didn't want to or couldn't come in.

Still, some say that's not enough.

"We do have cases in North Dakota where there have been double-digit cases that have been traced back to one congregation," Burgum said. "It's a high-risk activity."

"I can respect that as a leader he'll look out for the best interest of the people, but then again, he wasn't against us," said Miller.

Overall, Miller says despite warnings from state and health leaders, he's not very concerned about the virus.

"We pray about it every day there in church, and I feel like if God's for us, who can stand against us?" said Miller.

Pastor Simons says as the situation changes in southwestern North Dakota changes, he's be open to re-evaluating having in-person services.

Some Dickinson residents we spoke with didn't want to go on camera, saying they feared retaliation, called holding the in-person services irresponsible.

Meanwhile, some churchgoers also fear repercussion. Simons says some have been threatened with losing their jobs if they kept coming to New Life.

Health leaders say they've seen 32 cases and two deaths in Stark County as of 11 a.m. Sunday.

They say two people in Dunn County have tested positive, along with 3 in Slope County and one in Bowman County.