Pastor Tony Spell Says 1,300 Attend Easter Service!!! Keeps 'em Off Cam, Though

Exclusive Details 4/12/20
Packed House?
Central City News

Pastor Tony Spell held an in-person Easter service, as promised, and says he had more than 1,000 faithful parishioners there ... defying Louisiana's Governor and potentially spreading the coronavirus.

The minister was fired up for his flock Sunday at Life Tabernacle Church, and though he's previously been arrested for doing this -- he opened church doors again to his congregation, but also posted his service live on social media.

Spell claims he had 1,345 in attendance -- which he says is higher than his usual turnout. We say claims, because the congregation was rarely shown. We don't know if it was intentional, but the camera never showed more than a couple of rows of pews.

Most of the shots are of him on stage preaching from the pulpit. You see a few others on stage around him as well ... keeping somewhat of a distance. Although, the congregation was hidden from camera view, you can hear there are way more than 10 people present. The state guidelines call for gatherings to be 10 or less, and they have to maintain 6 feet distance.

One brief shot of the pews showed at least a dozen or so people, who don't seem to be socially distant.

Spell brazenly referenced the CDC's guidelines while preaching about a victory march for Jesus.

WORTH THE RISK
TMZ.com

Not really shocking from the man who told us his parishioners would be happy to die from COVID-19 if it meant they could attend church in-person.

As we reported, police said they did not intend to break up the service or arrest Spell on Easter -- but would instead monitor the gathering and use it to build a case against him for the District Attorney.

Spell was previously arrested weeks ago for violating the state's "safer-at-home" mandate.

Andrea Bocelli Solo Concert for Hope from Milan

EASTER WITH ANDREA

11:04 AM PT -- The man never disappoints ... Bocelli peformed for about 30 minutes, and the highlights included "Ava Maria" and "Amazing Grace." The blind tenor performed the latter after walking without a guide the doors of il Duomo to a microphone set up outside. 

Chills.

Andrea Bocelli is hoping his powerful voice can lift spirits around the world amid the coronavirus pandemic -- and he's performing live from hard-hit Italy.

The world-renowned singer is in il Duomo di Milano -- that city's iconic cathedral -- for a concert that will be livestreamed. You can see it here, starting at 10 AM PT.

The Easter event, dubbed "Music for Hope," comes as the country around Bocelli is still reeling from an astounding number of COVID-19 cases. Italy and the United States have each suffered more than 20,000 deaths during the pandemic.

Bocelli will be accompanied by pianist Emanuele Vianelli -- but Bocelli says he's not viewing this is a typical performance. It's clearly more spiritual to him. As Bocelli put it, "It will not be an actual concert, but an occasion to pray together through music.”

He added, "It will be a sacred singing, because as we are taught, ‘those who sing pray twice’. It will be an invitation for everyone to join in the prayer."

Amen to that, brother.

Kentucky Church Packed for Easter, Despite Nails in Parking Lot ... Cops Watching Closely

Breaking News

Kentucky State Police were circling the parking lot of a church that's packed for Easter service -- defying state orders -- and issuing warnings, if not citations.

Maryville Baptist Church in Hillview, Kentucky drew what seemed to be nearly a full house Sunday morning. Reporter Sarah Ladd with Louisville's Courier-Journal captured images in the parking lot ... where you could hear the pastor leading the congregation in song.

Shortly before the service began, volunteers were clearing the parking lot of nails, apparently left there by someone who wanted to discourage the service ... which is violating Kentucky's safer-at-home order. Gatherings of more than 10 people are illegal.

So far, the cops aren't shutting down the service or arresting churchgoers. Instead, they're leaving notifications on the cars in the lot ... informing the owners they are potentially spreading COVID-19.

The notifications also say the health department will contact the car owner, and his or her family members, and require them to quarantine for 14 days.

Unclear, if they're issuing tickets, but the notice does warn the churchgoers they may be committing a misdemeanor by violating the state's emergency order.

Joel Osteen Easter Service with Mariah, Tyler ... Carries on without Kanye

Joel Osteen's highly-anticipated virtual Easter Sunday service, featuring some big names chiming in remotely, is underway.

The event's going down from Joel's Lakewood Church in Houston. Joel's preaching from the church with no congregation -- but he'll get some assistance from Mariah Carey and Tyler Perry.

A MESSAGE FROM TYLER
Joel Osteen

As we first reported ... Mariah reached out to Joel about a special tribute to medical professionals and first responders as they battle in the frontline to battle COVID-19. We're told she's going to sing her song "Hero" via webcam.

Joel asked Tyler to share some inspirational words to help the massive congregation -- nearly 5 million last weekend -- through the pandemic quarantines. Joel told us Tyler recorded a 5-minute clip doing just that.

Kanye West and his Sunday Service Choir were supposed to perform as well, but that fell through on Friday. We were told the problem was social distancing the large number of singers and still capturing their harmonics.

BTW ... going virtual's nothing new for Joel. He's been delivering his sermons online for several weeks. Maybe some other pastors can rip a page out of his playbook. Pretty sure the CDC and most states governors' would appreciate it.

Catholic Church Cuts Confessions Amid Pandemic ... Sacraments for Dying Only

Exclusive

Catholics in America can still praise God on laptops this Easter, but confessions will have to wait, as churches across the country put a pause on that ritual.

TMZ's learned several Catholic Church leaders in major U.S. cities are ordering confessions and other sacraments to be discontinued during the coronavirus pandemic.

Joseph Zwilling, the spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, tells us ... "All of our sacraments have been put on hold during this crisis," but adds there can be exceptions. Those include people who need a reading of their last rites ... or an emergency baptism.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has called off all regular penance services, too ... but appointments can be set with a priest for dying parishioners or other "extremely extraordinary" situations. Even in those cases, we're told proper social distancing rules must be followed. The Archdiocese of Boston is using the same guidelines.

In San Francisco and Miami, confessions are still being held ... but by appointment only. The Archdioceses in both cities tell us strict social distancing rules are in place, and a special confessional ensures safety, as well as confidentiality.

In Miami, they've benched all priests over 65 or with a compromised immune system.

And, this is interesting ... in New Orleans, some churches are doing confession drive-thrus. We're told parishioners drive up to a priest wearing a mask and gloves, keep a safe distance, and confess away.

Of course, the best advice is don't do bad stuff that requires confession. You're in quarantine, anyway.

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne Arrested for Packed Church ... Violating Social Distancing

11:28 AM PT -- Howard-Browne has officially been arrested and looks none too pleased in his mug shot. He's been booked for unlawful assembly and for violating health and safety rules.

Tampa's controversial Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne is now a wanted man after holding services Sunday at his River Church -- openly defying the law and science during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pastor Browne bragged during the service that River Church would remain open for the duration ... but TMZ has learned the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Dept. now has a warrant for the Pastor's arrest.

According to records, he's wanted for unlawful assembly. Although he boasted, "The only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place" ... the fact is the County had already issued a "safer-at-home" order banning gatherings of no more than 10 people.

The rule also stated that people were not to stand within 6 feet of one another ... another clear violation in the video from the church's service.

At this point, it does not appear that Browne has turned himself in to cops.

Originally published -- 10:46 AM PT

Old news is old news!
Be First!

Get TMZ breaking news sent right to your browser!