Dozens of pastors and church leaders across Canada are vowing to remain open for Easter services under threats of hefty COVID-19 fines and even imprisonment.
The initiative titled “We Will Gather Easter 2021” was launched by Liberty Coalition Canada and has received pledges from 65 different churches who have committed to remain open for Good Friday and Easter Sunday, according to the organization.
“We’re trying to invite people across the country to celebrate Christ’s death, burial, and Resurrection. The list will be public on our website after 3pm today,” said Liberty Coalition Canada spokesperson Michael Thiessen.
One of those church leaders is Senior Pastor of Trinity Bible Chapel in Waterloo, Ontario, Jacob Reaume. Reaume is no stranger to controversy. Most recently, Reaume and his church were fined $83,000 by Ontario officials for holding indoor worship services in violation of the Reopening Ontario Act.
“The church is a hospital for sinners. The government lockdowns have put many people into despair and poverty, which has resulted in loneliness, addiction and suicide. The churches must open to be a sanctuary from the misery that our government has inflicted upon its own people,” Reaume told True North.
In partnership with several other churches, Trinity Bible Chapel released a video featuring a call to action for other church leaders to join in the effort to remain open. The Youtube video titled “Open Your Church” has since been viewed nearly 17,000 times.
“We were prompted by a sequence of escalating persecutions unleashed upon the Bride of Christ by various jurisdictions in Canada. Our church was persecuted by the province and our region for holding worship services in December and January. Our sincere desire is to worship Christ together and offer His good news to a world in turmoil,” said Reaume.
“We have witnessed other churches suffer similarly at the hands of government. With the imprisonment of Pastor James Coates, Canada reached a new low-point by locking up a righteous man. That is a dangerous and ominous sign. We desire to stand up for righteousness and proclaim the worth of our King who suffered for us on the cross.”
According to the latest Ontario government public health directives, churches in lockdown zones are allowed up to 15% of approved indoor capacity, meanwhile 50 people are permitted to attend outdoor worship services.
Coates, who was charged in February by Alberta authorities, was released over the weekend after being detained for 35-days in prison. Immediately upon his release over the weekend, Coates returned to his congregation at GraceLife Church and participated in a Sunday service.
“Pastor Coates has suffered valiantly for the cause of Christ, and heaven will reward him and his family for what they have endured,” Reaume said of Coates’ release.