Church again flouts limits
RCMP investigating after indoor service
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This article was published 31/01/2021 (784 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Steinbach-area church that has been fined multiple times for meeting despite public health restrictions posted a livestream video Sunday showing an indoor service.
The Church of God Restoration, located about 15 kilometres south of Steinbach, and its leaders have previously been ticketed for holding indoor religious services and later drive-in services. Indoor services are prohibited under pandemic restrictions, while drive-in services were not permitted at the time.
The video, which was uploaded to Facebook on Sunday, showed several instances of people gathering closely, including many children singing together and eight adults singing with the congregation. No one seen in the video is wearing a mask, and an audience is heard but not seen.
The first speaker in Sunday’s livestream, who did not state his name, said visitors weren’t obligated to gather indoors but were welcome to.
“All the scriptures talk a lot about how we should be gathering. It seems like a lot of us haven’t been gathering for some time,” he said. “This morning, I think it’s time to celebrate our gathering.”
Church of God minister Tobias Tissen can also be seen speaking during the livestream and called the gathering a “beautiful situation.”
“No matter what may happen after this service or in the coming days, let’s just take this time,” he said.
Another churchgoer who was part of the livestream said she was “thankful” to be able to gather in person.
“This morning, my soul is singing because I can see your faces… where our children can have a place where they’re not afraid to be close to another child, they’re not afraid of seeing each other and giving each other a hug,” the woman, who did not state her name, said.
RCMP blocked the entrance to the church in an incident in November and warned visitors they could be fined for congregating for the drive-in service. The province revised its public health restrictions in December to allow religious services in parking lots on the condition people remained in their vehicles.
The Church of God has not been the only Manitoba church to flout the rules. Springs Church in Winnipeg held drive-in services and pushed for a court injunction to continue with them but was denied by a judge before the health orders were revised.
A spokesperson for the RCMP said police were investigating the Church of God Restoration’s video.
Church officials did not respond to Free Press requests for comment, but the CBC quoted Pastor Heinrich Hildebrandt as saying the church is growing increasingly frustrated with the province’s pandemic restrictions.
“They keep pushing it up, keep pushing it up (without) enough data to back it up,” he said in a CBC interview. “And we feel a great need to get together.”
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Monday, February 1, 2021 9:21 AM CST: Minor copy-editing changes