One of the attending police officers admitted there was nothing they could really do.
As hundreds of people crowded on to a small beachfront park, he said the prospect of trying to issue fines to them all was unrealistic.
For weeks now, a group called Saturate OC has been holding religious revivals and baptisms on beaches along the coastline of Orange County in Southern California.
But the events are taking place in violation of public health orders and with coronavirus cases numbers surging across Orange County and the state of California.
On the evening we attended, on the waterfront in the city of Newport Beach, a handful in the congregation were wearing masks and most were not adhering to social distancing advice.
As teenagers played basketball and hockey nearby, an informal two-hour service featured songs, worship and baptisms in the roiling high-tide of the Pacific Ocean. A few carried signs and flags honouring US President Donald Trump.
The revivals are the work of husband and wife team Parker and Jessi Green.
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“We believe that, as an American citizen, the authority is the people,” Mrs Green told us. “The government is meant to protect the will of the people. The Constitution protects the right to assemble, freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, it is a democracy.
“When there’s that tension of government power, people start to wonder if this is America still.”
In choosing Orange County, a more conservative heartland than its neighbour Los Angeles to the north, they have found a sympathetic setting.
‘The OC’ has seen widespread protest against lockdown rules. Spend an hour wandering around some of its cities and you might think the coronavirus outbreak had never happened. Even in shops, mask wearing appears distinctly optional.
The attendees at Saturate OC are of a similar mind.
Josiah Johnson was there with his family. He said they had all suffered coronavirus infections earlier this year and had fully recovered.
Holding such events, he said, was not irresponsible. He echoed what many told us. “The numbers (of coronavirus cases) are inflated. The ways it’s affecting people are inflated.”
The previous week, along the coast in Huntington Beach, the crowd had drowned out police officers who called for them to disperse. The city had placed signs on the Pacific Coast Highway announcing the event had been cancelled.
“You can’t cancel Jesus,” Mrs Green told the defiant crowd.
They now use the hashtag #undergroundchurch and tease possible locations on social media until a few hours before their services are due to start. It adds to the sense of drama and that they are being hounded by the authorities.
Mrs Green said they have no intention of giving in. “There is no way we can stop now.”