Church In The Vine in Edmonton, Alberta has recently received a public health order admonishing the church for failing to follow the provincial government’s coronavirus protocols for places of worship.
They've been named and shamed on an Alberta government website as COVID scofflaws. They've had their reputations sullied by the mainstream media as anti-mask extremists.
But is any of that really true? I reached out to lead pastor Blaire Clinton and associate pastor Rodney Fortin for the other side of the story. What I found when I was welcomed into Church In The Vine was not what I had seen depicted in the mainstream media.
I saw a church doing their best to follow the rules, even as the rules continue to change constantly.
There are masks available. There are signs explaining the rules we all have to live by these days everywhere. The pastors are 16-feet away from the congregation when delivering sermons. The chairs in the worship space are clearly marked to encourage socially distant services. There's a framed copy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the wall of the church lobby, making clear their right to worship as a community freely.
However, I also saw a church that takes worshipers at their word when they say they are exempt from wearing a mask in accordance with human rights legislation.
I also saw a church that turns away no one seeking solace, comfort and God's love in a time of emergency, which may sometimes put the church over the government mandated 15 per cent of fire code capacity for services.
And those are the two points where, according to pastors Blaire and Rodney, the government has a problem with them.
With a Costco brimming with people just across the street, the hypocrisy of the Alberta government is evident in its treatment of Church In The Vine.