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GraceLife church pastor leads first sermon since release from jail

A truck arrives at GraceLife church outside Edmonton. (CREDIT: CityNews Edmonton)

EDMONTON (CityNews) — James Coates, the pastor of GraceLife church just west of Edmonton, led Sunday’s service for the first time since being released from jail last week for not adhering to public health orders.

Coates spent 35 days behind bars for violating a bail condition to comply with COVID-19 public health regulations.

The GraceLife church parking lot started filling up quickly nearly one hour before the service began and was later packed. Many were turned away, being told the church was at capacity.

Several chose to stay and watch the livestream of the sermon from their vehicles. More than 500 people tuned in.

The service began with Coates asking everyone to express their appreciation for the RCMP officers in attendance.

He then continued with a prayer before leading the 90-minute service.

RCMP were on site to ensure the church was compliant with health orders.

On Mar. 17, RCMP released a statement saying they “do not have the authority to shut down any establishment — only an Alberta Public Health Inspector has that authority. Any public health-related enforcement against a non-compliant establishment lies with AHS.”

Alberta currently allows religious gatherings to be held to a maximum of 15 per cent fire code capacity as long as physical distancing is maintained and masks are worn.

There appeared to be well over 100 vehicles in the parking lot on Sunday morning with many carrying multiple passengers.

CityNews reached out to RCMP to see if the church followed guidelines during Sunday’s service but did not receive a response.