Calgary church leader invites members to violate COVID-19 rules
The pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary says he will still hold services on Sunday in contravention of the province's public health orders.
CALGARY -- The pastor of a Calgary church says he will be holding services at the building even though he has already been fined by the province for doing so.
Tim Stephens, who leads worship at the Fairview Baptist Church in southeast Calgary, is inviting members of his congregation to defy Alberta's rules against gatherings at this Sunday's service.
"This Sunday, you'll be welcome to gather in our main auditorium, downstairs in our distanced space, or tune in from home via livestream. Each person must be convinced in their own mind," he wrote in an online statement.
Last week, Stephens was given an executive order from Alberta Health Services and fined $1,200 for violating the Public Health Act. In addition to holding the gathering, inspectors found no participants were wearing masks.
He's said he plans to fight the ticket on the grounds it is "unconstitutional" and says the current rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19 transform the spirit of the service.
"The problem is that these alternative ways to 'do church' are pastor-centric rather than church-centric," he wrote. "Sunday worship can become more like a performance or TED talk where people consume what the pastor says with little to no interaction with the people (i.e., the church). These alternatives can strain the very definition of church (Gr. ekklesia) which is an assembly."
While he does plan to go ahead, he also warned his congregation that health inspectors and the Calgary Police Service are likely to be there too, to hand out further fines.