Pray for our ARP Churches in the Canadian Presbytery. The article below was published in a local newspaper involving one of our own ministers, Steve Richardson, pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Tillsonburg, Ontario. Richardson said he is appreciative of all prayers and support from the denomination.
Tillsonburg Pastor Charged for Failing to Comply with COVID Restrictions
Faith Presbyterian Church’s pastor Steve Richardson decided it was time to make a stand in Tillsonburg.
When the Ontario government announced its province-wide shutdown measures, which went into effect Dec. 26 to minimize transmission of the COVID-19 virus, it included restrictions on organized public indoor events. For church services, the mandatory capacity was 10 people or less, including parishioners, officiants and staff.
Early in January Richardson was ticketed by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) for a service that exceeded the indoor limit.
“We did continue indoor services and I was issued a ticket,” Richardson confirmed Monday morning.
“At a certain point we decided to no longer meet in that location, and then after some discussion we decided that we would meet back at the Bidwell location (101 Bidwell St. Tillsonburg).”
On Feb. 7, OPP attended the church, and met Richardson after the service where he was issued a court summons. Richardson was charged with Fail to Comply with a continued section 7.0.2, contrary to Reopening of Ontario Act Section 10(1)(a). The matter is now before the courts.
“Our encounters with the police have been very positive,” said Richardson. “We are very grateful for the way they’ve dealt with us. They have been courteous, they have been polite, and it’s clear they’re just doing the job that they’ve been given. The police have been fantastic and we have no complaints.”
Wearing masks during indoor services are required by Southwestern Public Health.
“We have the signs up and it is made very clear that this is a requirement of Southwestern Public Health,” said Richardson, “and people are free to wear them or not wear them. We can’t – and we won’t – enforce that. But that is up to each individual conscience. In our church we basically just said, ‘here’s what the requirement is and we leave it to you to decide what to do.’
“To me there’s a very significant difference between whether or not we are required to wear masks and whether or not we’re allowed to gather for worship. As far as I’m concerned, if I don’t gather for worship, I’m sinning against God, so I have to gather. But with masks, I don’t like it – I have reasons why I don’t like it – but I’m pretty confident that I can wear it without sinning against God.”
Faith Presbyterian Church decided not to go the route of some churches that conduct virtual services. Seeing people shopping at large retail chains, and kids going back to school, pushed them in the direction of indoor services.
“We hear a lot of people say that the church isn’t about the building and we completely agree. But the Bible defines the church as a gathering. In fact, there is no such thing as a church without a gathering. And in order for us to keep God’s day holy, bound up in that is the gathering of God’s people for preaching, singing, prayer, fellowship. So without those things we can’t keep the Sabbath… the Lord’s Day. We can’t actually keep any of the first four Commandments. I know a lot of churches have tried to adapt and they’ve given reasons to justify it, but I believe that they have gone quite far astray from the Bible and that they’ve compromised.”
Faith Presbyterian Church has no affiliation with Church of God, nor has Richardson closely followed the situation in Aylmer. But the Tillsonburg pastor said he does share Rev. Henry Hildebrandt’s concern with government intrusion into the affairs of the church.
“We have deliberately taken a different approach,” said Richardson. “We haven’t sought the attention of either the media or the authorities, we just decided to quietly go ahead and do our thing.”
(This article was originally printed here https://tillsonburgnews.com/news/local-news/tillsonburg-pastor-charged-for-failing-to-comply-with-covid-restrictions and shared with permission.)
2 thoughts on “Pray for Our Canadian Presbytery”
We know that we are in the early stages of a greater persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ. He is fine tuning us in these early dilemmas, adjusting our responses and attitudes to the difficulties He is placing before us.
As persecution increases so will we see more and more what our Christ honoring response ought to be to it. In the end of it we will shine as His jewels which we are and He will be seen having been faithful to us, His cause, every step of the way we took. Because persecution is purification to the Church and all of these things are our Lords doing. Let us pray that we will be patient and pleasing to Him in the days ahead until we hear those blessed words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
I respect Rev. Richardson’s conscience to gather his people for Lord’s Day worship and ask the Lord to bless and keep him and his congregation through this time. Governments’ responses to COVID have stirred up concerns to uphold individual liberty, personal responsibility, freedom of conscience, and freedom of religion. There are concerns also neither to contract COVID nor to spread the disease. There are concerns over the obligations and the limitations of civil government to safeguard public health yet also, to protect the basic rights of its citizens. Longstanding convictions, fears, and questions of trust and respect come to the fore in times of crisis, whether within families or the larger society. Disagreements are inevitable, power struggles are likely, and harmful precedents for the future are possible. Amidst this turmoil, I find clarity here: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:12-13)