A church the Albany Park area of Chicago is blatantly disobeying the lock down orders imposed by Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot, and opened its doors for not just one, but two services this past Sunday. Elim Romanian Pentecostal’s head Pastor Christian Ionescu vows to continue with services, as posted to the church’s facebook page:
A Romanian church on the North Side hosted two Sunday services, prompting Ald. Rossana Rodriguez (33rd) to plead with other religious leaders in the community not to defy the state’s stay at home order.
Elim Romanian Pentecostal at 4850 N. Bernard St. hosted a morning and evening service Sunday. Both were live streamed on Facebook. Cristian Ionescu, Elim Romanian’s pastor, said about 110 people attended each service.
The Albany Park church is among those suing Gov. JB Pritzker to challenge his stay at home order. Ionescu said he has no plans to back down and plans to keep holding services.
“I’m going to keep hosting mass unless I’m incarcerated, or the church doesn’t stand with me or God takes me,” Ionescu said after Sunday’s evening service.
Ionescu complained the state is at least a year away from things getting back to normal. Expecting only 10 or 50 people to be able to enter a church at a time is “ridiculous” for a congregation like his that has about 900 members.
“For us it is insulting, more than ridiculous,” Ionescu said in the video. “We’re conducting recordings for our own online services with more than 10 people being involved. Whether the government officials have no idea what a church public service really means, or they’re trying to tell us in a non-confrontational way that we’re still banned, I don’t know.”
Ionescu also said he is frustrated Pritzker didn’t include church leaders in the conversation regarding his plan to reopen the state.
“Unfortunately this administration dismissed us as non-essential from the beginning. Then under intense public pressure and impending lawsuits they gave us the recognition, but only symbolically,” Ionescu said. “It doesn’t help us in the least.”
Ionescu’s church joined Logos Baptist Ministries in suburban Niles to file a temporary restraining order against the governor Friday, according to WGN.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday she had a “very pleasant” conversation with the pastor of an Albany Park church that defied the statewide stay-at-home order and hopes to educate him into compliance, avoiding mass arrests.
“We’re not gonna send in the police to arrest parishioners. People are exercising their faith, and I understand that,” the mayor said.
“But it’s a mistake to gather in large congregate settings — particularly if you have an underlying medical condition [or] you are otherwise in a vulnerable population. That’s hopefully the dialogue that we’ll be able to have with the pastor.”
“Our plan has always been to educate people into compliance. If we can do that, we will do that. We don’t want to take more aggressive measures unless we’re forced to do that because people are defying it,” the mayor said.
“But we’re not gonna have a circumstance where people are blatantly ignoring the rules that have been put in place to help save peoples’ lives.”
The mayor said she had a “very pleasant conversation” with Cristian Ionescu, Elim Romanian’s senior pastor, on Monday and hopes to have a follow-up conversation soon.
Last week, Elim Romanian and Logos Baptist ministries in Niles asked for a temporary restraining order preventing them from facing criminal repercussions for hosting services while vowing to impose strict social distancing measures.
Speaking in his native Romanian, Cristian Ionescu, Elim Romanian’s senior pastor, told his flock the move to hold services is “not a rebellion for the sake of rebellion” and claimed the Constitution grants them the right to worship during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vast majority of congregants didn’t wear masks during the service. But almost everyone put one on before leaving. And when the service was winding down, Ionescu sternly directed his followers to stay 6 feet apart and warned against congregating outside.
“Why is this important? We are being watched,” he said. “We are being recorded.”
“Educating people into compliance”…. Where have we heard that before?