James Coates is a young pastor in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, who was imprisoned this week for continuing to hold services at his church. This really hits home for me because I was born in Western Canada.
The story has received international exposure via social media and news outlets, but in order to fully understand Pastor Coates’ perspective, I believe that it’s important to go to direct sources. James’ wife, Erin, has an Instagram page (@erincoates80), and the church (GraceLife Church of Edmonton) released a detailed statement on its website.
If one simply reads the news articles being released, it would be easy to assume that GraceLife Church is purposefully going against the Alberta lockdown guidelines to gain attention and make a public statement. But Pastor Coates has stated in recent sermons that he and his church members are simply trying to lead tranquil and quiet lives in service of God.
GraceLife states on its website that it is taking measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. The church closed its doors last spring and did not reopen until June, when the first public health emergency had officially ended. Since that time, GraceLife says that it has not seen any transmission of the virus as the result of any of its gatherings.
In a recent sermon, Pastor Coates took a moment to thank law enforcement officers, but before he did, he asked his parishioners not to cheer, in order to comply with guidelines set by Alberta Health Services. So instead of cheering, congregants stood and clapped. This church is not trying to defy the government, but simply serve God.
As I read through the posts that Erin Coates has made on social media since her husband’s arrest, I am incredibly encouraged by the complete trust that this couple has in God and His providence. They are committed to serving their congregation and serving their God, whatever the cost.
We realize that this is a complex situation and that the government officials are working hard to mitigate the spread of the virus, but imprisonment is simply not the answer. To see a man who has a clear love for the people in his church and his city be thrown in jail should be troubling to our society.
Let’s join in prayer for James and Erin and their children, as well as for the people of GraceLife Church. We also want to pray for those who authorized this imprisonment, that they would be able to see Pastor Coates’ heart for the city of Edmonton.
A positive result of this situation is that Christians and non-Christians across the world now have a front-row seat to witness Pastor Coates’ love for and devotion to God.