Congregants of GraceLife Church west of Edmonton gathered together on Sunday to worship God in a full service, the first since the bail appeal for the church’s pastor, James Coates, was denied.
It was also the sixth Sunday since the Alberta government issued an executive order to close the church.
Coates has been held in provincial custody since February 16, when he turned himself in for breaching the provincial health order that requires him to limit church services to 15 per cent of fire code capacity and mandate the use of masks during worship services.
Coates says he is unable to meet bail conditions that would require him not to hold, nor attend, church services that do not conform to provincial health guidelines. At his most recent bail hearing, Crown prosecutor Karen Thorsrud insisted that she remain anonymous due to what she claims are threats to her safety. However, there is no publication ban in this case.
Church attendance remains at capacity as associate pastor Jacob Spenst has been preaching in Coates’ place. Coates could be held in custody until his trial from May 3 to 5 on charges that, if convicted, would not involve jail time.
In contrast to previous weeks, police presence at the church was diminished, with just two police cruisers as opposed to the usual seven.
No tickets were issued this week to GraceLife and media interest in the case continues to fade, with just two camera crews staying in the ditch across the street from the church for 15 minutes.
To sign our petition calling on the provincial government to end the incarceration of Pastor Coates, please go to www.FreePastorJames.com.