Awaken Church Pastor explains why they continue to defy orders to close

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Awaken Church has continued to hold indoor services in defiance of state orders to close. Amid the rise in positive cases over the past few weeks, the San Diego County Health Department has identified Awaken Church on Balboa Avenue as the site of a recent coronavirus outbreak.

The county sent out an advisory saying that they hadn’t been able to identify and get in touch with everyone who may have been exposed. In response, San Diego County is now asking those who attended in-person services from November. 15th to the 22nd to quarantine for 14 days and monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.

Pastor Jurgen Matthesius told KUSI’s Hunter Sowards that they were “blindsided” by the county’s advisory, explaining that they believe San Diego County threw them under the bus. Matthesius said the advisory didn’t inform the church how many people tested positive as part of the outbreak, or even who they were. Awaken Church later found out it was just three people.

Pastor Matthesius said 2,800 people call the Balboa campus “home,” and that he doesn’t know how just three people can constitute an outbreak at his church.

Awaken Church has implemented “a three-pronged approach” to ensure the safety of those who attend their worship services.

Responding to people who are critical of Awaken Church’s decision to remain open, Pastor Matthesius said “the lockdowns and COVID aren’t just affecting people physically. It’s affecting people mentally, spiritually, emotionally and socially. There’s a reason they use isolation in prisons as a form of punishment, because human beings need connection.”

Pastor Matthesius then noted the sharp increase of those who attend his services that are admitting that they have contemplated suicide, “because they are just suffering mentally, emotionally and spiritually with the lockdowns, shattering of their businesses, or even recidivism back into addiction.”

KUSI’s Hunter Sowards spoke with Pastor Matthesius in more detail live on KUSI’s Good Evening San Diego.

RELATED STORY: Health officials identify Awaken Church as the site of a COVID-19 outbreak

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