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The Church in Calgary promises to oppose COVID-19 restrictions

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Bill Kaufmann

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February 23, 2021 • • 8 hours ago • • 3 minutes read Fariview Baptist Church held a personal Sunday service on Sunday, February 21, 2021. The Church has announced that it will oppose current capacity constraints, which limit face-to-face meetings of faith to 15 percent of the capacity of the Fire Protection Act. Photo by Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia

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A Calgary church already charged with violating COVID-19 restrictions vows to continue to oppose health regulations, in part in support of believers in the Edmonton area whose pastor has been jailed.

The Fairview Baptist Church, 230 78 Ave. SE, held two services on Sunday, attended by numerous members as well as the attention of city officials.

And its senior pastor said other churches across the province would soon band together in solidarity to oppose the restrictions.

Pastor Tim Stephens said the church’s decision to continue services is to show unity with GraceLife Baptist Church west of Edmonton, whose Pastor James Coates reported to police on February 16.

He remains in custody while refusing to adhere to restrictions that allow gatherings of only 15 percent of normal capacity, the wearing of masks and physical distancing.

This church held a full service on Sunday.

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In a press release released on Saturday, Fairview Baptist’s Stephens said his church will remain firm in holding face-to-face meetings larger than those allowed under the health restrictions.

“We are not against all rules and health measures. However, we cannot follow rules that make what we essentially do as a church impossible, ”he said.

“And to be clear, it is Jesus Christ, not civil government, who defines what is essential to the assembled church.”

He pointed to schools open to full classrooms for students and said churches are safer.

“We have no objection to these (school) accommodations as the standard rules would prevent the school from doing what is essential to a student’s education,” wrote Stephens.

“Shouldn’t this be the policy for every school, business, and church?”

A ward member enters through the back door of Fairview Baptist Church on Sunday, February 21. Photo by Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia

The vast majority of churches in the province have largely relied on online virtual services.

But Stephens argued that humans were divinely created to be physically together to worship.

And he pointed to six other churches across the province aside from Fairview Baptist and GraceLife, who have joined The Church Must Gather movement, which he expects to grow significantly larger.

“We are not alone in this … many other churches in our province will join us in the coming weeks,” said Stephens, who could not be reached for further comment on Monday.

“Simply put, public worship is a non-negotiable principle,” says the Church Must Gather movement on its website.

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Following an investigation last month, Fairview Baptist was issued two tickets – one for missing a face mask and the other for a mandatory court appearance.

After that, the Church appeared to put all of its services online and no complaints were received.

But after last weekend the tone of the city changed.

“The Calgary Community Standards, along with partners from the Alberta Health Services and the Calgary Police Service, continue to investigate violations of the Public Health Act (PHA) in the Fairview Baptist Church and its continued refusal to comply with public health regulations,” he told the per City statement sent by email.

“Obvious violations of the PHA that endanger the health of others remain a priority for the City of Calgary.”

City council. After working together, Gian-Carlo Carra said the church had defiantly fallen behind, which he describes as ironic and disappointing.

“There is a shock and a disappointment under our bylaws – it really is disappointing when things seem to be going in the right direction,” said Carra, adding that he has received numerous complaints about the church from its neighbors.

“It is disappointing when unselfish organizations thwart our collective efforts to keep this disease at bay.”

He said a likely upcoming ticket that requires a mandatory court appearance should give Fairview and other churches a break from violating regulations. The ticket carries a potential fine of up to $ 250,000.

“It’s no longer a $ 1,200 fine or a little wagging of fingers,” said Carra.

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In response to GraceLife’s defiance, an Alberta Health Services spokesman said they “continue to work within the law and in a cooperative manner with the RCMP,” but made no further comment on the situation.

Associate Pastor Jacob Spenst led the Sunday service at Coates and informed the congregation that messages of support had been received.

Spenst said he spoke to Coates earlier that morning and the pastor sounded strong.

“If they take one, there will be another to take its place. And when he’s gone, someone else will be in his place, and we’ll keep going on over and over again. Because Christ is worthy, ”he told the church.

Prime Minister Jason Kenney has asked Alberta churches to adhere to health restrictions and has earned the wrath of some churchgoers – many of whom are UCP voters who have said on social media that they will no longer support the party.

– with files from The Canadian Press

BKaufmann@postmedia.com

on Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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