ROCK FALLS, Illinois — Update: The day after this initial report came out the church moved its services online.
The pastor of the church announced on Facebook that services will be held online until further notice.
A church just outside Rock Falls is continuing to hold in-person services, defying federal health guidelines and a state mandate restricting gatherings. Members of First Open Bible Church could be seen in an online broadcast on Sunday morning greeting one another with warm handshakes and hugs.
Pastor Les Funderberg would not comment to News Eight. But in his sermon, Funderberg makes it clear that he knows he is at odds with the advice of health authorities.
"I know that we're in the middle of a situation. We're in the middle of, they call it a pandemic," Funderberg said.
Whiteside County Health Department Public Health Administrator and CEO Cheryl Lee said her office had been in contact with the church.
"We really want people to not congregate, stay at home if at all possible," Lee said. "Because if you are healthy and well, you may still be contagious and there are people that are high-risk."
Authorities have advised that people only go out for the absolute essentials like food or medicine.
"I certainly understand, as a Christian myself, the need to really want to lean into our faith and our local churches, and that’s why we are applauding the churches that are able to do online services," said Dr. Kelley Stanley, medical director at the Whiteside County Health Department.
First Open Bible Church already posts its Sunday and Wednesday services online, unlike other local congregations that don't yet have that capability.
Nevertheless, Funderberg remains defiant.
"I know there’s a pandemic, but I’m not running afraid. If God is God, he’s got me! And if he takes me, praise God! What’s the downside of that?" Funderberg said.