Members of a church in Delaware will hold a service at a public beach on July 4th despite their city initially denying their request to hold eight Sunday seaside services this summer.
The gathering is being promoted as a Freedom Rally by New Covenant Presbyterian Church of Lewes, Del., and members will meet in Rehoboth Beach, Del., to celebrate "Freedom on our nation's birthday, remembering its history and experiences of it," according to a church flyer acquired by CP.
Initially, Pastor Robert Dekker contacted Rehoboth Beach City manager, George Ferrese, to have recurring summer-long services at the Bandstand, a music and entertainment venue by the shore. Ferrese then responded that granting permission would be a "mix of church and state," according to a radio interview between Dekker and Glenn Beck.
Dekker also told the radio host he got the idea to hold worship gatherings on the beach from churches near his own town that do the same. He said it "seemed logical" since his church's population had grown and it would help his members avoid having to deal with traffic congestion.
After being denied, Dekker made another request to the city for the Fourth of July Freedom Rally. In documents released by the city to CP, Dekker requested "a permit to have a peaceful assembly on July 4th from 9:30 am to approximately 10:40 am on the beach area."
"We will seek to honor those who scarified to preserve liberty and we will seek to explore a better understanding of the biblical admonition in Galatian 5:1," he added in the document.
In addition to his request, Dekker mentioned he was "exercising many of the First Amendment rights by having a Freedom Rally."
Ferrese responded two days later granting permission, stating his expectation is for the event to be "well managed and peaceful."
During his interview with Beck, Dekker also cleared the air about a flyer that surfaced claiming his congregation was having a service "in defiance of tyranny."
"The language of tyranny and the language of defiance is not the language that I am most comfortable with," said Dekker. "So this idea of being defiant is not the message of the gospel," he added.
He also mentioned he was initially given no "real reason" for being denied but felt it was so "that there wouldn't be any hostility, so that there wouldn't be any ugliness…I mean, I applaud the guy for wanting to have a beautiful situation," he told Beck, referring to Ferrese.
However, Ferrese says he told Dekker the Bandstand was not available for rent or for religious services and that it was intended for entertainment purposes only, according to a Delaware-based news outlet. He said the city policy also prohibits religious demonstrations on public beaches because the city does not want to offend visitors who may not agree with a service, and if permitted, church requests would be overwhelming.
Now that he has a city-granted permit for Thursday's event, Dekker just wants to share the word of God.
"I just believe as a pastor that one of the best things we can do for southern Delaware as well as for the U.S., even for the world is that when you preach the good news that there is forgiveness, that there is hope, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to God's mercy, he saves us," Dekker told Beck.