Saturday, on the steps of the Stony Plain provincial courthouse, several pastors from across Alberta and from across different Christian denominations asked their fellow pastors, ministers and priests to offer services without restrictions on attendance.
Open Alberta Churches describes itself as a coalition to freely open churches in Alberta. The group is expecting a groundswell of other congregations to reopen without limits on services between Good Friday (April 2) and Easter Sunday (April 4). These congregations would join the 12 currently listed on the group’s website as being open for services.
Rebel News was on hand in Stony Plain to discuss the plan with the pastors involved, including Trevor Stephens of Victory Baptist in Sherwood Park. Stephens' brother, Tim, the pastor at Fairview Baptist in Calgary, is facing escalating fines and potential jail time for reopening his church. Rebel News has had reporters at Fairview Baptist for several weeks detailing the police surveillance of the congregation.
Current provincial restrictions limit church and worship service attendance to 15 per cent of fire code capacity, while retail and restaurants can be open to 25 per cent as part of the Step 2 reopening plan. Step 3, expected to launch yesterday would have eased restrictions on place of worship. That stage of reopening is now delayed indefinitely, due to an expected rise in case counts, although the Step 3 target of under 300 COVID hospitalizations had been met. Alberta currently has 280 COVID-related hospitalizations.
Stony Plain was chosen as the site of the rally as Pastor James Coates of the nearby GraceLife Church spent 35 days in jail for failing to comply with an undertaking that forced him to adhere to the public health restrictions on his church. On Monday at 5 p.m. Coates was released from being held in provincial custody at Edmonton’s maximum security Remand Centre, after he was able to be released by paying a $1,500 fine.
To see more Rebel News coverage of Pastor Coates and GraceLife, please visit www.FreePastorJames.com.