REHOBOTH BEACH — A Delaware pastor who was recently denied a permit to conduct church services on the beach preached to a crowd of approximately 1,500 people on the Fourth of July.
As previously reported, Pastor Robert Dekker of New Covenant Presbyterian Church in Lewes told reporters that he recently submitted a permit application to hold eight church services on Rehoboth Beach beach this summer, but received a letter of rejection from the city manager.
“I am so sorry to inform you that I cannot grant your request to have church services on the public beach in Rehoboth. I cannot mix Church and State,” it read. “I trust you understand. Wishing you the very best.”
However, when supporter Christian Hudson found out about the matter, he decided to organize a freedom rally for the Fourth of July, and asked Dekker to preach a sermon at the event, which had been permitted. Flyers were soon created announcing that Dekker would preach a sermon on the beach called “A Line in the Sand” in defiance of the denial of the permit.
“Pastor Robert Dekker, in defiance of tyranny, will give a sermon on the public beach at the end of Rehoboth Avenue,” the flyers stated. “Join the local churches on Independence Day as we assemble for a peaceful worship service.”
According to reports, the event on Thursday far surpassed attendance expectations, with nearly 1,500 people participating on the beach.
“For a normal service, we’d have 25 or 30 people,” Hudson told the Cape Gazette. “It’s just great to see people come out and support your civil rights. What is more personal than your right to worship and believe according to your own rights of conscience?”
The area for the rally had been partitioned off, but quickly filled up with attendees, some of which were not aware of Dekker’s situation. Patriotic songs and messages filled the air for most of the event, but Dekker also had the opportunity to preach for just under 20 minutes.
“If the city manager were to change all of his decisions — and I was very thankful that he changed his mind that he gave us this permit today; I’m really thankful for that — God is able to bring about change in his time,” Dekker told the crowd, according to Delmarva Now.
Reports state that some of the loudest cheers came when an airplane flew overhead carrying a banner that read “Jesus Saves. He loves you. Call on His name.”
John Betts of Abundant Life Church in Georgetown also led attendees in corporate prayer.
“The issue for me is that [I] see opportunities diminishing around us to provide the help that I think the community needs more than anything. When you take the light off of the city, there’s going to be darkness,” Dekker told reporters prior to the event. “If there isn’t anybody that’s going to preach the good news, then people are going to be left in the dark because no one will hear it.”