A Calgary church that has previously broken COVID-19 rules opened its doors Sunday and held a full service in support of the Edmonton pastor who remains in custody after refusing to follow the restrictions.
“James (Coates) is a good friend of mine and it’s sad what’s happened to him,” Pastor Tim Stephens said. “I’m prepared if that’s the same consequence for myself. I know other pastors feel the same way, that want to stand with him and support him and our brothers and sisters at GraceLife Church.”
Near Edmonton, GraceLife Church also held a service Sunday despite being previously issued a closure order from Alberta Health Services.
The service Sunday was so busy that some members were turned away as the building had reached its full fire code capacity. COVID-19 rules in Alberta say churches should only allow 15 per cent of that amount through the doors.
There were at least three police cruisers present at GraceLife on Sunday.
RCMP said in a news release that they “continued their investigation” into GraceLife Church on Sunday and that “observations were made that the church held a service beyond the designated capacity.”
RCMP said officials are working to determine the next course of action and plan to provide an update later in the week.
So many vehicles are arriving for Sunday service at GraceLife Church members monitoring the parking lot can be heard telling people that they are at max capacity of their fire code and are encouraging people to live stream the service. @GlobalEdmonton #YEG pic.twitter.com/bPN2Z1ViuB
— Chris Chacon (@ChrisAChacon) February 21, 2021
Coates remains in custody at Edmonton’s Remand Centre. On Saturday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the centre and called for his release.
Around 20 people held a much smaller protest and outdoor sermon in support of Coates at the centre on Sunday afternoon.
Calgary’s Stephens said that he believes many parishioners around the province “desire to worship God freely.”
“These health restrictions are limiting and hindering our ability to do that. So we’re standing today with GraceLife and other churches across our province to worship and to say that church is essential.”