An Oklahoma church has invited its huge congregation to Thanksgiving meals — despite health experts’ advice to refrain from getting together for the celebration during a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Victory Church in Tulsa announced plans for the “Friendsgiving” event Sunday to its 13,000-member congregation, encouraging people to “bring a neighbor,” Newsweek reported.
“We always look forward to this meal with you. All of our campuses will be participating at their facility,” the church wrote on Facebook.
The event sparked backlash online over the church hosting the Turkey Day festivities during the pandemic.
“There is more than one way to give thanks and worship. A BIG one is by not killing people,” wrote one Twitter user.
Another added, “This is a terrible call and many people are going to die here in the name of ‘religious freedom.’”
The church didn’t respond to request for comment from Newsweek.
Experts have been encouraging Oklahomans to stay home this holiday season as the state grapples with record daily case numbers, including 616 new infections on Nov. 14, the highest since the pandemic began.
“The best way to celebrate is just within your own household, just the people who you live with,” said Dr. Steven Crawford, a senior associate dean at Oklahoma University College of Medicine, according to news station KOKH.
“Bringing anyone including other family members in from the outside increases the risk of infection.”
Earlier in the week, Victory Church received backlash when it hosted an estimated 2,500 people for a concert, news station KJRH reported.
“We’re not going to reject people and push people out because they take their mask off,” said Pastor Paul Daugherty, who stressed that the event was held at 50 per cent capacity.