Alta. church moves service to unknown location after authorities fence off property

EDMONTON — “They can take our facility but we’ll just find another one,” GraceLife Church’s pastor James Coates opened service on Sunday.

He spoke not from inside the church in Parkland County west of Edmonton, which was then still surrounded by three layers of fence ordered by health officials, but from an unknown location.

A video of the April 11 service was published to YouTube on Monday.

Coates stood at a podium and spoke into a microphone in front of a grey backdrop, not unlike his usual one at the church.

After saying good morning, he stepped aside for the band, whose singer greeted the audience, “Good morning. Did you ever think you’d be part of the underground church?”

It’s not clear who hosted the congregation, or how many people attended. A slightly wider shot of the podium revealed a few people standing in front of the makeshift altar.

Coates spoke only briefly about the “imprisonment” of GraceLife’s building before beginning his sermon centered on Psalm 2, about God’s reign over a rebellion.

Coates said he was watching a similar insurrection.  

“Governments all over the world are counselling together in a unified effort to oppress the people they govern. And in that context, those who are faithful, those who follow Christ and confess that Jesus is Lord, are going to be the ones they have to silence and get out of the way because everyone else is going to fall in line.”

GraceLife was closed April 7 by Alberta Health Services until it says the church can “demonstrate the ability to comply with Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health’s restrictions.”

Both the church and its pastor have been charged with violating provincial public health orders. Coates was jailed for several weeks for refusing to agree to follow the rules.

Hundreds of people – some church supporters, others believed to be far-right or fringe groups – have protested at the fenced-off building in Parkland County since it was locked up.

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