Damien Dupont, visiting the Free Grace Baptist Church for an in-person service, during a time when there is a ban on gatherings, speaks to a television news crew outside the church on Dec. 13, 2020. (Jessica Peters/ The Progress)

Damien Dupont, visiting the Free Grace Baptist Church for an in-person service, during a time when there is a ban on gatherings, speaks to a television news crew outside the church on Dec. 13, 2020. (Jessica Peters/ The Progress)

Chilliwack churches continue to defy public health orders with in-person gatherings

Chilliwack RCMP began with awareness campaign but have now recommended charges for gatherings

At least two churches in Chilliwack continued to defy provincial health orders this Sunday.

The Chilliwack Free Reformed Church, just north of the Vedder overpass, held its 9:30 a.m. service, and the Free Grace Baptist Church on Wellington Avenue held two services, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Neither of the churches’ parking lots were overly full, and both churches do stream their sermons live for those who prefer to watch from home. But both have also kept their sanctuaries open for their congregants who prefer to worship in person.

The pastors at both churches have spoken to The Progress recently to defend their decision to hold services despite the current public health orders that prohibit gatherings, including church gatherings.

On Saturday, Dec. 12, Chilliwack RCMP announced that they are recommending charges against three unnamed churches in the city. They did not include which charges were being considered.

“We have submitted reports with regards to the violation involving in-person congregations from last weekend,” said Sgt. Krista Vrolyk with the Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment. “We’re seeking BC Prosecution Service charge assessment.”

A ban on gatherings from public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, including for worship, went into effect on Nov. 19. The Riverside Calvary church in Langley has also been holding in-person services and has already received a $2,300 fine for doing so. They also continue to hold a service, and have stated they will be fighting the fine.

On Sunday, there was a CTV News crew on site at the Free Grace Baptist Church prior to their morning service. They spoke with a man heading into the church, Damien Dupont, on camera who said it was not his regular church. He also told them that the media is being “disingenuous” about COVID-19, and that people are “dying with COVID, not of COVID.”

A handful of local religious leaders have written to The Progress in response to the news the churches continue to gather.

Retired pastor Arthur Isaac wrote that the pastors are “sending a wrong signal to their congregants as well as to all churchgoers that it is alright to disobey authorities when it infringes upon our desires.”

Pastor Darryn Botha wrote that he is “frustrated but hopeful.”

See their letters and more on pages 9-11.

READ MORE: RCMP submit reports to BC Prosecution Service after three Chilliwack churches continue in-person worship


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

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