By Danielle Kutchel
A Narre Warren pastor who defied lockdown to open his church for a congregation over the weekend has been fined by police.
On Sunday 14 February, Revival Christian Church in Narre Warren welcomed worshippers for its usual 10am service, with Pastor Paul Furlong reporting that between 60 and 80 people attended.
Video footage of the event showed little social distancing or adherence to mask rules.
Victoria Police confirmed that they attended the building in response to reports of a religious gathering at around 11am on Sunday.
As well as the church service, police said they also found people connected with the religious group seated at an adjoining cafe.
Upon police arrival, visitors dispersed without incident.
Police issued a fine to Pr Furlong for breaching the directions of the Chief Health Officer.
The pastor said he also received a second fine, which he would not disclose.
Pr Furlong has vowed to never shut his church again, declaring the word of God to be higher than the laws of the land.
“I have opened the doors of my church and will keep them open because I obey the greatest authority, that is God Almighty, according to the bible. It commands us, do not forsake, do not stop, do not neglect the gathering together of the faith.”
Asked whether he could continue offering services over Zoom, Pr Furlong said the experience would not be the same for his congregation.
“The key to church is fellowship with people. Not fellowship on a TV screen, that’s impossible,” he said.
“I’m going full-bore open without any shame with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
He described his role as providing care to those who have come to his church, and said many of those visiting his church were experiencing mental health distress brought on by lockdown.
“We’re caregivers,” he told Star News Group.
“The service that I give and what I do is give care for people as pastor.”
Pr Furlong said it was time for the lockdown to end, declaring it to be in breach of the Australian constitution and the Biosecurity Act.
He stated he believes Covid to be a front for the establishment of a ‘New World Order’, a conspiracy theory that has existed for generations and been soundly dismissed, but which Pr Furlong said is previewed in the Book of Revelations.
Pr Furlong said he had been “overwhelmed” by the response to his dramatic weekend opening, and said he would continue to defy lockdown orders for as long as restrictions are in place.
Victoria Police confirmed their investigation into the incident is ongoing, with inquiries being made in relation to possible incitement offences.