Six elders from a church in Ontario have been charged for holding an in-person worship service, a violation of government edicts put in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement released on New Year’s Eve, the members of Trinity Bible Chapel in Waterloo — who face a fine of up to $10,000 — described the legal action taken against them as “a violation” of their “God-given rights.”
The government has banned more than 10 worshippers from gathering together indoors and outdoors, according to CBC News. The congregation’s service on Dec. 27 went against government mandates.
All six elders said officers with the Waterloo Region Police Service showed up at their homes the night of Dec. 31, handing each church member a court summons charging them for violating Section 10.1 of the Reopening Ontario Act.
“We are not criminals,” read a statement from the church elders, adding, “Although we know of officers within the WRPS who personally disagree with these charges, it appears the WRPS is trying to make an example of us.”
“For years,” the statement continued, “we have taught our children to respect police, and now our children and grandchildren are witness to their fathers and grandfathers receiving charges from police for worshipping Christ with our church.”
The church stated it has not had “a single outbreak” traced back to its congregation. Additionally, Trinity Bible Chapel leaders noted, they “have heard a plethora of stories from many of our congregants about how they were negatively affected spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and financially” by the lockdowns that have become commonplace during the pandemic.
It’s worth pointing out — as the elders did — that WRPS Chief Bryan Larkin said in June that he and his entire force were throwing their “full support” behind the Black Lives Matter protests that numbered somewhere between 12,000 and 20,000 people.
“As your chief of police, I want you to know that our members will be there to not only ensure your safety and the safety of the public, but to show that we stand united with you,” he said of thousands of Black Lives Matter demonstrators. “They will ensure you have the support needed to practice your democratic right and have your voice heard.”
The actions taken in late December by the WRPS makes clear Larkin and his force do not feel the same freedoms should be afforded to Christians gathering for worship services.
Regardless, the members of Trinity Bible Chapel plan to continue meeting.
“Our savior shed His blood to purchase the church, and, therefore, deeming the church ‘unessential’ is tantamount to deeming the blood of Christ unessential, which is a public act of blasphemy,” the church stated. “One day, our elected officials, bureaucrats, and police will stand before the court of God’s justice for these acts.”
“We earnestly pray that the Holy Spirit would draw them to His Son, Jesus Christ, who offers free grace and forgiveness to all who would repent and put their faith in Him,” the statement continued.
The congregation plans to continue holding in-person worship services on Sunday mornings, maxing out the sanctuary at 30% capacity each week, “in accordance with provincial requirements.”