CENTRAL, La. (BRPROUD)– More than 1,200 people came together for Sunday service at Life Tabernacle Church, disregarding an order by Gov. John Bel Edwards to stay at home and limit large public gatherings.

Buses were utilized once again for Sunday service on March 29, to transport people from five different parishes. In text message, Pastor Tony Spell told BRPROUD 1,265 people physically attended.

Last weekend on March 22, Parishioners could be seen congregating in large groups, touching one another while in close contact. Only a few could be seen wearing masks or gloves. On March 29, media was not allowed on church property.

Pastor Spell denied our request for an interview, his father instead speaking on his behalf. “The church again, is not a non-essential. The church is the most essential thing in all the world,” Pastor Timothy Spell said.

Spell set the record straight that his sons parishioners are not being forced to attend services, now saying they are not encouraging parishioners to attend in person. “No one is telling anybody you got to come to church we tell people not to come. If you have a fever, if you have any symptoms, if you are aged, if you are elderly, don’t come,” Spell said.

Before March 29 Sunday services people appeared to get their temperature checked before entering the building.

The controversial services drew national attention, critics continue suggesting the church find other ways to worship. “If they was really worried about just spreading the word they would go on Facebook Live or YouTube or some kind of way to spread the word where they would not have to go and meet in places and spread this virus that’s killing people every day,” Central Resident Ryan Tregre said.

Louisiana has more than 3,500 cases of covid-19, is now considered a national hot spot and has claimed more than 150 lives.