GraceLife Church holds second Easter service in violation of COVID-19 restrictions Sunday

Two people stood across the street from the church holding up signs that read “what would Jesus do?”; “hang out in a cohort of 12”; and “Jesus would say, spread kindness not COVID.”

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A Parkland County church held its second packed Easter service in three days on Sunday, against a closure order issued in January for violating COVID-19 restrictions.

Vehicles poured into the GraceLife Church parking lot, just west of Edmonton, before the 10:45 a.m. service Sunday morning. Two RCMP vehicles could be seen outside the parking lot and remained on scene shortly after Sunday’s service began.

Churches are allowed to be open under the current COVID-19 restrictions but must limit capacity to 15 per cent, require mandatory masking and physical distancing between households. GraceLife has been found in violation of these restrictions every Sunday since the closure order from Alberta Health Services came into effect.

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In a livestream of the church’s service Sunday, attendees could be seen singing unmasked in violation of the rules.

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Two people stood across the street from the church in protest of the continued restriction violations holding up signs that read “what would Jesus do?”; “hang out in a cohort of 12”; and “Jesus would say, spread kindness not COVID.”

AHS attends Good Friday, Sunday service

This was the church’s second service in violation of COVID-19 orders this week following a service on Good Friday.

The RCMP watch as parishioners arrive for an in-person Easter Sunday Service at GraceLife Church, in Edmonton Sunday April 4, 2021. The church continues to defy COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions.
The RCMP watch as parishioners arrive for an in-person Easter Sunday Service at GraceLife Church, in Edmonton Sunday April 4, 2021. The church continues to defy COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

The church is continuing to flout the rules despite a spike in cases across the province and a plea to the public from Premier Jason Kenney to follow all restrictions as Alberta faces “a significant new wave of COVID-19.”

An Alberta Heath Services (AHS) environmental public health inspector visited GraceLife Church for both the Good Friday and Easter Sunday services, AHS said in a statement.

“They noted what appeared to be breaches of the current Chief Medical Officer of Health’s (CMOH) restrictions related to capacity, physical distancing, and masking,” the statement read Sunday. “AHS is continuing work on further enforcement options.

“With growing case numbers, particularly those involving variants of concern, it is extremely important that Albertans continue to follow all CMOH restrictions.”

Health officials asked to meet with leadership from the church this week prior to the Good Friday and Sunday services, but by Thursday that request had not been granted, AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson told Postmedia.

Brazil P.1 variant outbreak

Parishioners packed the church one day after chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw posted on Twitter about a “significant” outbreak of the Brazil P.1. COVID-19 variant.

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The RCMP watch as parishioners arrive for Easter Sunday Service at GraceLife Church, in Edmonton Sunday April 4, 2021. The church continues to defy COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions.
The RCMP watch as parishioners arrive for Easter Sunday Service at GraceLife Church, in Edmonton Sunday April 4, 2021. The church continues to defy COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

Hinshaw didn’t provide any further details on the location of the outbreak or how many cases and said a more detailed update will be provided Monday.

GraceLife Church pastor James Coates led the service for the third time since his release from jail March 22, after he was charged twice for violating the Public Health Act. One of those charges has since been dropped and a second will be taken to trial in May. Coates also received a $1,500 fine for violating bail conditions, which was paid through time served. The church has been charged as an entity, which is also scheduled to go to trial in May.

The church has had COVID-19 cases in the past, but Alberta Health this week declined to say how many cases were connected to the church or if anyone had died. A statement on the church’s website said there were two cases last July.

More to come.

Two people protest outside GraceLife Church’s in-person Easter Sunday Service, in Edmonton Sunday April 4, 2021. The church continues to defy COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions.
Two people protest outside GraceLife Church’s in-person Easter Sunday Service, in Edmonton Sunday April 4, 2021. The church continues to defy COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia
Men wait to direct parishioners into the parking lot as they arrive for an in-person Easter Sunday Service at GraceLife Church, in Edmonton Sunday April 4, 2021. The church continues to defy COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions.
Men wait to direct parishioners into the parking lot as they arrive for an in-person Easter Sunday Service at GraceLife Church, in Edmonton Sunday April 4, 2021. The church continues to defy COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia
The RCMP watch as parishioners arrive for Easter Sunday Service at GraceLife Church, in Edmonton Sunday April 4, 2021. The church continues to defy COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions.
The RCMP watch as parishioners arrive for Easter Sunday Service at GraceLife Church, in Edmonton Sunday April 4, 2021. The church continues to defy COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia
The RCMP watch as parishioners arrive for Easter Sunday Service at GraceLife Church, in Edmonton Sunday April 4, 2021. The church continues to defy COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions.
The RCMP watch as parishioners arrive for Easter Sunday Service at GraceLife Church, in Edmonton Sunday April 4, 2021. The church continues to defy COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia
The RCMP watch as parishioners arrive for Easter Sunday Service at GraceLife Church, in Edmonton Sunday April 4, 2021. The church continues to defy COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions.
The RCMP watch as parishioners arrive for Easter Sunday Service at GraceLife Church, in Edmonton Sunday April 4, 2021. The church continues to defy COVID-19 public health orders and restrictions. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

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