While churches across the globe continue to grapple with how and whether to meet for in-person worship amid the ongoing pandemic, one church in a small Canadian town is being harshly punished for gathering.
According to LifeSiteNews, police in Aylmer, Ontario have been going door to door and fining folks who attended worship service last Sunday at The Church of God.
Herbert Hildebrandt, son of Pastor Henry Hildebrandt, shared alarming footage on Twitter showing Aylmer police handing out tickets for $880 during the night.
Tonight, under cover of darkness @AylmerPolice went from house to house handing out $880 tickets for going to church this past Sunday.#standwithGod @ezralevant @randyhillier @DerekSloanCPC @KarahaliosPC @PoliceOnGuard @TGranicAllen @aylmerpastor @aigkenham @benshapiro pic.twitter.com/z0P4N9r5cX
— Herbert Hildebrandt (@herberandt) January 27, 2021
“Tonight, under cover of darkness @AylmerPolice went from house to house handing out $880 tickets for going to church this past Sunday,” the junior Hildebrandt tweeted.
The individuals were fined having been found in violation of Ontario’s “Emergency Orders” which prohibit attending public worship in groups larger than 10.
“As of 27th of January Aylmer Police have identified 47 persons who were in violation of Emergency Orders during an indoor and outdoor gathering on 24th of January 2021 at a church situated on John St. North Aylmer ON,” Aylmer Police said in a Facebook post, according to LifeSite. “Officers are in the process of serving 29 Part 1 tickets on those individuals identified. In addition, 18 Part 3 summons are being processed for individuals residing outside of Elgin County Jurisdiction and for those persons/organization responsible for Organizing and hosting the event.”
According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Pastor Henry Hildebrandt preached in the church’s parking lot before inviting the congregants into the building.
At the time, Hildebrandt joked that he had forgotten to tell the gathering of roughly 75 people that masks were available at the door. Footage of the service posted to the church’s own social media, LifeSite reports, shows that the congregation did not wear masks or utilize social distancing. It was that very footage that police used to identify people who took attended the service.
Pastor Hildebrandt has been a notable figure in local resistance to lockdown measures for some time now, according to the CBC. In November, he supported a 2,000-man strong protest march through the little town. Earlier last month, he was issued a summons after holding a service in his church the Sunday prior.
While other provinces have made more lenient allowances for churches to gather creatively and safely, Ontario has imposed shockingly strict restrictions, even punishing Hildebrandt’s church for hosting drive-in services in which congregants remained in their vehicles with the windows closed.
“It is frankly very disappointing that the Ontario government has not followed suit, particularly as this lockdown is measured in months, not weeks, and ongoing public support is being sorely tested,” said Lisa Bildy, a London, Ontario attorney defending several churches against draconian closures, back in May. “It is not difficult to set some reasonable parameters to ensure that public health continues to be protected, yet still permit much needed connection between parishioners from the safety of their cars.”
Earlier in January, Bildy stated that her organization, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, is “dedicated to the defence of Canadian civil liberties.”
“We’ll be serving a notice of constitutional challenge on the government so that they will come to defend their restrictions,” Bildy told the CBC. “They haven’t been forced to do that yet. And really, that’s why this case is so important, because we do have civil liberties in this country. It is a free country. And if the government is going to restrict us for 10 months, they should be put to the test of showing us that the evidence justifies that.”
In a statement to LifeSite, Pastor Hildebrandt pointed to several Scriptures defending his church’s insistence upon worshiping the Lord corporately and in-person:
Whereas, the first and great commandment is that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37; cf. Deuteronomy 6:5);
And whereas, this first and great commandment is a summary of the first four of the ten commandments (Matthew 22:37-40);
And whereas, the first commandment tells us who to worship, the second commandment tells us how to worship, the third commandment tells us the manner of worship, and the fourth commandment tells us the when of worship (Exodus 20:3-11; cf. Deuteronomy 5:7-15);
And whereas, since the resurrection of Christ, the first day of the week called the Lord’s Day is to be kept holy unto Him (1 Corinthians 16:1; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10);
And whereas, it is impossible to love God without regard to the first four commandments (John 14:15; John 15:14; 1 Jn. 2:3, 5; 5:3);
And whereas, God defines public worship to include the physical gathering of his people (Leviticus 23:3; Psalm 89:7; Hebrews 10:25);
And whereas, we are explicitly forbidden from rendering to Caesar what is God’s (Mark 12:17);
And whereas, we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29);
And whereas, Christ is the only Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18; cf. Ephesians 1:19-23);
And whereas God alone is the Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines, traditions and commandments of men, which are in anything that is contrary to His word; or beside it in matters of faith and worship (Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29; 1 Cor 7:23; Matt 23:8; 2 Cor. 1:24; Matt 15:9);
And whereas, only the demonstrably sick are to be quarantined (Leviticus 13:1-9);
And whereas, believers are no longer subject to bondage through fear of death (Hebrews 2:15; cf. 1 John 4:18; Philippians 1:21);
And whereas, the mission of the Church is the glory of God in the salvation of sinners (Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Corinthians 4:4-5; 5:20)
And whereas, the primary means of the spread of Christ’s kingdom is through the preaching of God’s Word (1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11; 2 Timothy 4:2; Romans 10:17);
And whereas, love for God takes precedence over our love for our neighbour (Matthew 22:37);
And whereas obedience to God shapes our love for our neighbour (Romans 13:7-14);
And whereas, love for neighbour concerns itself with the whole man, soul and body (Proverbs 1:7; Ezekiel 18:4; Matthew 10:18; 2 Corinthians 5:10-21);
And whereas, God’s glory is our reason for being (Philippians 1:20)
“We believe that churches or believers must continue to gather in person for public worship with or without the permission of the civil authorities,” Hildebrandt concluded.
If you appreciate the work we are doing to fight the leftist assault on our values, please consider a small donation to help us continue. Thank you so much!