A Pennsylvania pastor earlier this week announced plans to hold an “outdoor Easter blowout service” that he compared to the likes of Woodstock, despite federal guidelines urging the public to avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jonathan Shuttlesworth, a televangelist based around Pittsburgh and founder of the Revival Today ministry, made the announcement in a video he posted to his YouTube page on Monday titled “The Rodney Howard-Browne Tribute Special.”
The program was named after the Florida pastor who was arrested earlier this week and charged with unlawful assembly and violation of the public health rules for hosting two large services amid the outbreak at a megachurch in Tampa on Sunday.
In recent weeks, scores of churches have moved to livestreaming their services to follow guidelines from the White House and top health experts urging the public to stay indoors and avoid discretionary travel in efforts to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, the River at Tampa Bay Church said earlier this month that it planned to keep its doors open to help those in need.
In his tribute special to Howard-Browne on Monday, Shuttlesworth called out authorities for arresting the pastor, whom he referred to as his “best” and “possibly” only friend at the start of the program.
“You arrested my friend for having Church on Sunday in his own church on private property in the United States of America,” he said while launching a can off-screen. “If I would have told you that that was gonna happen in January, you'd have thought I was a conspiracy theorist wacko."
“It finally came to a head where they not only arrested a pastor for deciding to have church in his church on Sunday as a Christian in the United States of America, but they did it to my best, possibly my only friend, Dr. Rodney Howard Brown,” he continued.
“Let me ask you something,” he said later during the program. “Do you think we fought for these freedoms in this country to freely assemble and practice religion to give the rights back?”
Shuttlesworth said he wants to “bring people out to realize that God still has a remnant that will fight for freedom, fight for the Gospel.”
“I'm going to announce it, but we're going to hold an outdoor Easter blowout service, not online, a national gathering, you come from all over like Woodstock,” he continued. “And we're going to gather and lift up Jesus Christ. I'm not ashamed that Dr. Rodney got arrested. I'm ashamed that when they wanted to arrest preachers for having church in an entire state there was only one to come for.”
“I'm ashamed my butt wasn't seated next to him but I don't have a church,” he added.
Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) issued stay-at-home orders to a number of counties in the state, including Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
Later on Wednesday, he extended the orders to the rest of the counties in the state. The Hill has reached out to Shuttlesworth to see if the recent move by Wolf will have an impact on his plans to proceed with the Easter service.