EDMONTON -- GraceLife Church hosted another in-person service Sunday where it affirmed hopes for the release of its pastor.

James Coates was arrested and charged for ignoring COVID-19 health restrictions while hosting services at the Parkland County church.

Coates has been at the Edmonton Remand Centre since Feb. 16 and faced two charges under the Public Health Act for holding in-person worship services that did not abide by social distancing and occupancy restrictions set by the province.

He was granted bail but did not agree to the conditions of his release. Coates appealed those conditions but lost earlier this month.

Jacob Spenst, associate pastor at GraceLife, said he spoke with James Coates on the phone Friday evening.

“We could’ve talked way longer but we kept on getting cut off by the 15-minute or 20-minute calls he was able to make,” Spenst said.

Spenst said he hopes Monday, when the pastor has a hearing, will be the day Coates is released from custody.

He added as the church enters the Easter season, it wishes to continue holding gatherings in-person and that there is a recognition of the separation between church and state, citing a difference “in authority.”

“We desire to gather together, to worship unhindered according to how we see scripture commands us to,” he said.

Spenst’s remarks were shared in-person at the church and broadcast online on GraceLife’s YouTube channel through a livestream.

The church has defied a closure order and has been cited for violating COVID-19 restrictions in connection to occupancy, physical distancing and masks.

On Wednesday, his lawyer John Carpay said all but one charge had been dropped.

Coates’ hearing is at 9:30 a.m. and his three-day trial starts on May 3 in Stony Plain. 

READ MORE: Jailed Alberta pastor has hearing scheduled for Monday