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Canadian church holds packed service despite closure order for breaching COVID-19 rules

A church in Alberta, Canada held a packed service, Sunday, despite being issued a closure order for covid-19 rule violations.

GraceLife Church in Parkland County, Edmonton, opened its doors and held a service for an estimated 300 people, despite a police presence on site, as reported by the Edmonton Journal.

The church had been issued an immediate closure order on Friday afternoon after Alberta Health Services (AHS) ruled it was operating in conditions that are dangerous to public health and against the current rules.

Places of worship in Alberta are allowed to open for services as long as they limit capacity to 15 per cent and mandate the use of masks. Social distancing of at least two metres must also be observed.

The publishers of Edmonton Journal, Postmedia, received an email from AHS senior communications adviser Jennifer Green who said church officials acknowledged the closure order but said they would disregard it.

Many churchgoers were reportedly unmasked as they walked from the car park into the church. While a livestream of the online service showed congregants singing, unmasked, in violation of provincial orders.

Inspectors at the church last Sunday also found violations of all the rules, including 290 people in attendance, which was over the capacity limit. 

On 17th December a work order issued by health authorities noted public health violations requiring immediate remediation. The order came with a $1,200 fine issued to church pastor James Coates. A Court of Queen's Bench ruling to enforce the order was issued 21st January, as reported by Edmonton Journal.

GraceLife Church didn't respond to a request for comment.

A message on the church's website states the facility is open and available to "members in good standing of GraceLife Church" and "Regular Adherents and those in process of membership".

The immediate closure order noted GraceLife Church must stay closed until it complies with all public health rules.

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