EDMONTON -- GraceLife Church’s parking lot was full Sunday morning as their pastor James Coates preached for the first time after being jailed in February for not following COVID-19 public health measures.

Another packed church service was hosted on Sunday despite public health measures limiting churches and places of worship to 15 per cent of their fire code capacity.


AHS told CTV News Edmonton that officials were not allowed inside the church today.

In a statement to CTV News Edmonton, Alberta Health Services (AHS) said it is aware of ongoing ‘public health concerns’ and that an executive officer’s order has been issued requiring the closure of GraceLife Church until compliance with restrictions is achieved.

The order includes a requirement that GraceLife’s capacity by capped at 92 people, every person wear a face mask at all times while in an indoor space, and that every person maintain a minimum distance of two metres from every person not part of their own cohort or household group.

“AHS has extended an offer to meet virtually with representatives from Grace Life Church to discuss the surge in COVID-19 cases and answer any questions about the current restrictions.

“The collective action of leaders in all our communities is necessary to slow the spread of this virus.”

AHS said there is an “urgent need” to minimize the transmission of COVID-19.

RCMP officers were present prior to the service. CTV News Edmonton observed RCMP speaking to GraceLife Church officials for a lengthy period of time. No enforcement actions were observed.

RCMP told CTV News Edmonton that members present at GraceLife were there to keep the peace but did not enter the church during the service. They were checking for numbers of people inside and found that attendance was again over-capacity. Mounties did not provide an exact number. RCMP say they will be following up with public health inspectors tomorrow.


GraceLife Church hosted another service Sunday with a packed parking lot (CTV News Edmonton)


Coates was greeted with applause, loud cheers, and a standing ovation when he returned to the pulpit at the start of Sunday’s service.

“It’s such a blessing to be here with you today,” Coates told the congregation.

“I’m so thankful for all of the love and support you’ve shown to me and my family.”

He also thanked his congregation for sending letters and notes of support to him.

Coates was jailed on Feb. 16 after he repeatedly hosted church services at GraceLife that exceeded Alberta's mandated 15 per cent capacity.

He was in custody for one month because he refused to agree to the conditions of his release after he was granted bail.

Sunday he addressed his refusal to agree to follow the public health order, saying the wide-ranging “impact” of that decision “amazed” him. 

“It’s amazing to me how one act of obedience in a little wee RCMP office in little wee Spruce Grove could have the impact that it did,” he said to applause. “I couldn’t sign that condition.”

“The rest is history.”

Coates was charged with two violations of the Public Health Act and failing to comply with a condition of his undertaking.

He pleaded guilty to a lesser count the last charge as part of a deal that saw one of the two Public Health Act charges dropped.

His three-day trial on the outstanding Public Health Act charge begins on May 3.