NASHVILLE (RNS) — Christian musician Sean Feucht brought his worship protest tour to Nashville on Sunday (Oct. 11).
Feucht played before a mostly maskless crowd gathered on a public square in front of the Nashville Metropolitan Courthouse. Video of the event shows thousands of tightly packed people jumping and raising their hands as Feucht and his band play.
“We had THREE venue changes and so much resistance,” Feucht wrote on Twitter. “BUT THE CHURCH WILL NOT BE SILENCED!”
A police officer escorting me out tonight said he estimated 9000-10,000 worshippers filled the courthouse steps in downtown Nashville!
— Sean Feucht (@seanfeucht) October 12, 2020
The Christian musician and worship leader has held a number of outdoor concerts and protest events around the country in recent months. After a September concert was canceled in Seattle, Feucht held an impromptu musical street protest instead.
Feucht has ties to Bethel Community Church, a prominent California charismatic congregation. Earlier this year, the church criticized a concert held in its community by Feucht for failing to follow planned safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Metro Nashville Health Department issued a statement Monday, saying that Feucht did not apply for a permit.
“The Health Department is very concerned by the actions that took place at the event and we are investigating and will pursue appropriate penalties against the organizer,” the department said in a statement.
A message from MPHD: pic.twitter.com/lHnkvEzyEC
— NashvilleHealth (@NashvilleHealth) October 12, 2020
At least one conservative Nashville pastor was perplexed by Feucht’s choosing Nashville for his event, noting that the city’s churches and other houses of worship have been cleared to meet in person.
“I don’t mind people protesting where churches aren’t able to meet,” said the Rev. Thomas McKenzie, pastor of Church of the Redeemer, a conservative Anglican Church in North America congregation. “Nashville makes no sense.”
This man is a fool. https://t.co/cza6UpdGSU
— Thomas McKenzie (@thomasmckenzie) October 12, 2020
McKenzie said his congregation has been meeting at their church for months. They follow Nashville’s guidelines for meeting in person, including wearing masks and social distancing. McKenzie has also offered drive-in communion in the parking lot.
As far as he could tell, Feucht’s worship protest ignored the city’s advice.
“All I see is a concert with no social distancing,” he said. “It seems to be this is more about Sean and less about Jesus.”
A strategic planning document posted on the Mt. Zion Baptist website outlines the process the Black charismatic megachurch used to determine its response to the coronavirus pandemic. After consulting health experts and church leaders, the megachurch has decided to keep worshipping online.
“Because of Mt. Zion’s size, capacity, and reach in the community, hosting in-person worship services now and in the near future (before a COVID-19 vaccine) are not felt to be safe,” the report states.
An analysis of cell-phone travel data found that worship attendance in September was down 30% from February 2020, according to the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville. Tennessee’s governor, Bill Lee, has encouraged congregations to meet online but has not issued any formal restrictions on worship.
City officials have planned to allow about 7,000 fans to attend Tennessee Titans football games. Nissan Stadium, where the Titans play, can hold about 70,000 fans.
Tennessee legislators have taken steps to limit protests near the state’s capitol building in downtown Nashville. After activists — including faith-based activists — camped out near the capitol to protest police brutality and racism, state legislators passed a new law making camping near the capitol a felony.