BALTIMORE (WJZ) – A city church opened Wednesday in defiance of a recent Baltimore City Health Department’s closure order.

Greater Grace World Outreach on Moravia Park Road held its regular worship service Wednesday, March 17, three days after the Health Department issued a temporary closure notice and issued a citation. The violations are for not enforcing facial covering requirements and physical distancing.

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“We haven’t been in the newspapers and we’re not getting in any trouble. I’m concerned. Like, are we really walking with God—well, God answered my prayer,” Greater Grace Pastor Thomas Schaller said at the pulpit via its live stream Wednesday. “My desire is to see your face. My desire is to have communion.” The pastor acknowledged the closure order. The Health Department says as of Friday afternoon, the church has not submitted a safe reopening plan.

“This is not a barroom. This is not a Home Depot. This is not a bowling alley. This is not the Baltimore Oriole Stadium,” Schaller said. “This is a church…When we come in here, God is in charge.”

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In a statement, Mayor Brandon Scott’s office said enforcement of the mayor’s executive order will continue, saying in part, “(W)e remain encouraged by the vast majority of faith institutions that continue to find ways to worship safely during this pandemic.”

Currently, Baltimore City places of worship can congregate at 25 percent capacity. The limit will raise to 50 percent capacity later this month.

“We have herd immunity, maybe,” Pastor Schaller falsely said Wednesday. “Many of us don’t care about it anymore. We are hugging and kissing. We are embracing and living.”

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Attempts Friday to reach Pastor Schaller by phone and in person were unsuccessful.

Paul Gessler