CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As state health officials warn against large gatherings throughout the holiday season, WCNC Charlotte has learned a local church is hosting a gathering over the weekend that’s expected to bring out hundreds of attendees.
The United House of Prayer is hosting an event to honor the head bishop of the church.
Bishop CM Bailey, the leader of the entire House of Prayer franchise which is made up of close to 150 churches, is visiting the Beatties Ford Road location Saturday, Jan. 2, and Sunday, Jan. 3.
House of Prayer churches from all over the area are expected to bring in members by busloads.
“It’s going to be a large crowd It’s going to be at least 500 plus," said a member who spoke anonymously and exclusively to WCNC Charlotte's Billie Jean Shaw Thursday.
Small groups gathered outside the church Saturday, the parking lot became full at night.
"It's going to be bad," Reverend Raymond Johnson of Marion South Carolina said.
Reverend Johnson protested across from the church. He held a sign that reads: "House of prayer bishop do the right thing now!"
"I think this is more about money -- the bishop can do it in so many different ways, he could go on the radio, by phone, by satellite," Johnson said. "We're going to be in grave danger."
Back in October, the church on Beatties Ford Road hosted a week-long convocation event that drew thousands of members of the church from all over the country.
According to the Mecklenburg County Health Department, at least 208 COVID-19 cases and nine deaths were traced back to the event.
WCNC Charlotte obtained letters the bishop sent to members encouraging them to attend the mass gatherings despite peaking COVID cases across the country. WCNC Charlotte also obtained audio of Bishop Bailey telling a congregation he healed them from COVID-19.
Members say his stance has not changed and fear another outbreak this weekend.
“A lot of people that I know in the House of Prayer, outside of the House of Prayer have died from this virus," said the anonymous member. "This thing is serious, this thing is serious."
Sources with the Mecklenburg County Health Department tell WCNC Charlotte's Billie Jean Shaw officials have been made aware of this weekend's event and reached out to church leadership but haven't received a response.
Meanwhile, members say they're trying to alert health officials in South Carolina, Georgia, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania as the bishop has scheduled stops in those areas after his stop in Charlotte. Hundreds are expected at each visit.
"These are super spreader events," said the anonymous member. "They are taking this virus back into those communities.
A member said in the House of Prayer, they believe the bishop is the closest thing to God on Earth, believes he has healing powers, and pays him thousands of dollars during his visits to each church.
“They have something call Daddy's Club which is $2,000 per member. The whole thing is about money. He just wants them there for money," said the member. "You have to realize they see him like God, wherever he is they'll come out."
Below are the dates and locations of the Bishop's next stops.
- Dec. 30 & 31 God's White House 601 M. Street
- Jan. 1 West Baltimore Motherhouse
- Jan. 2 & 3 Charlotte Motherhouse
- Jan. 6 Savannah, Ga. Motherhouse
- Jan. 7 Augusta, Ga Motherhouse
- Jan. 8 Columbia Motherhouse
- Jan. 9 Greensboro, NC.
- Jan. 10 and 11 Newport News Motherhouse
- Jan. 14 New Haven, Connecticut
- Jan. 15 New York Motherhouse Harlem, NY
- Jan. 16 S. Philly Motherhouse
Mecklenburg County Health Department released a statement on the United House of Prayer events: "MCPH is aware of the events and have been in conversation with UHOP leadership. We explained that now is not the time for this type of event considering the extent of the pandemic in our community. We have been assured by church leadership that they are implementing all of the necessary precautions and limiting the numbers in the church at any given time."
On Saturday, it appeared that most church members were wearing masks.