GraceLife church continues to ignore a government order to close, and once again held services for a full house of worshippers.
The church just west of Edmonton was issued an executive order from the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Deena Hinshaw, to cease holding services after the congregation was found by Alberta Health Services inspectors to be disregarding coronavirus lockdown measures that limit the size of services to 15 per cent of fire code capacity and require congregants to wear masks. GraceLife’s pastor, James Coates, was first issued a $1,200 lockdown ticket before being arrested once on February 7 and jailed February 16 for failing to comply with public health orders.
Coates has remained in the maximum security Edmonton Remand Centre, unable to agree to the conditions of bail that would require him to limit his congregation to the 15 per cent threshold and force churchgoers into masks. Coates served his first 14 days in the provincial facility in solitary quarantine isolation.
GraceLife associate pastor Jacob Spenst was at the pulpit in place of Coates for the second Sunday in a row, while up to seven vehicles containing police and health authorities patrolled the roads outside, collecting evidence against the church.
Churches across the prairies are opening their pews in solidarity with Coates. Fairview Baptist in Calgary, Heights Baptist in Medicine Hat and Fellowship Baptist in Saskatoon are risking expensive fines and closure notices to exercise their faith in the face of lockdown restrictions.
At GraceLife on Sunday, no tickets were issued and police did not enter the property. GraceLife continues to be an island of normalcy in abnormal times.