Free Grace Baptist Church on Wellington Avenue – seen here on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020 – was one of two churches in Chilliwack that continued to hold in-person services despite public health orders. Chilliwack RCMP announced on Dec. 6 they were investigating. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Free Grace Baptist Church on Wellington Avenue – seen here on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020 – was one of two churches in Chilliwack that continued to hold in-person services despite public health orders. Chilliwack RCMP announced on Dec. 6 they were investigating. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

LETTER: Church attendee says ban on in-person gathering is inconsistent with government policy

‘I will disobey until the government sorts itself out’

This Sunday is the second time now the police have shown up and, after the service (interestingly) ordered us [Editor’s note: at one of the two Chilliwack churches violating public health orders on in-person gatherings] to disperse, which we did, peacefully (Even if, I must admit, hearing the order inspired me to want to then begin a prolonged hymn or carol singing session. I know, I’m such a badass!).

Here in B.C., the government has banned large gatherings to prevent COVID transmission. I understand that, I respect that. However, the government has allowed restaurants to remain open to dine in, and schools and day cares to remain open. All while cancelling in-person church services of less than 50 people, every family sitting at least six feet apart, all wearing masks, no Sunday school or nursery.

Currently, the outbreaks we are witnessing are at gyms (which have been closed mostly), schools, old folks homes, and restaurants. I am unfamiliar with any that have been traced to a church.

Sir, I understand the need for public health orders. I understand the need to prevent transmission of a disease which causes very curious and hitherto misunderstood symptoms, and whose long term impacts are not fully known. I would, and do respect the need for caution, distancing, and vigilance in monitoring myself and my children for illness and staying away until we receive positive confirmation that COVID is not present.

RELATED: Chilliwack churches fined $18,400 for violating public health orders

RELATED: OPINION: On individual rights versus community health

However, B.C.’s current outright ban on in-person church services is totally inconsistent with wider government policy. How is it possible that one could think eating at a restaurant is, in any way more important than communally praising and worshipping the maker, creator, and sustainer of the universe? How can one possibly imagine that one needs to attend a brick-and-mortar school more than one needs to attend a service to receive the reassurance that despite our plethora of failings, wrongdoing and (yes, I daresay it) sin we are forgiven, loved, and restored to grace, and how we are to respond to this gift by living a good and upright life?

Yes sir, we can partake in a church service online, but one also does not need to sit in a restaurant to eat, and one can also get an education online.

And that is the crux of this issue: The inconsistency of this rule banning in-person church services with wider government policy. If schools and restaurants were closed, I would have no issue with remaining at home and partaking in church online. The fact schools and restaurants remain open means the rule banning in person church services is not being responsive to the situation at hand, but rather is repressively targeting communities of faith.

And this I will not stand. Nor will I comply with such a rule until either wider health restrictions make this rule consistent with its approach, or until this rule is modified to become consistent with the wider policy currently in place.

I want to obey the government. But I will not betray my conscience to do so. So I will disobey until the government sorts itself out.

Joel Penner

• Send your letter to the editor via email to Please include your first and last name, address, and phone number.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack Progress Letters

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sheriff Avory Chapman was last seen Jan. 20 on Wellington Avenue in Chilliwack. (RCMP)
RCMP look for missing man last seen in downtown Chilliwack

21-year-old Sheriff Avory Chapman has been missing since Jan. 20

A worker is seen throwing a chicken in an undercover video in 2017 filmed by California-based animal rights activists Mercy For Animals.
Fraser Valley chicken abuse trial delayed until February

Originally scheduled for a jury trial, Sofina and Chilliwack company now face judge alone

Chilliwack Law Courts. (Black Press file)
Man sentenced to 20 months for sexual interference in Mission

Will Laws Clark was 22 and victim was 13 at time offences began

Recently elected NDP MLA Kelli Paddon is funding three $500 scholarships for students demonstrating a commitment to equity and social change. (Black Press file photo)
Chilliwack-Kent MLA Kelli Paddon funding Equity and Social Change Scholarships

One of the scholarships is open to any graduating student in the Chilliwack-Kent electoral district

Richard Procee is one of four candidates in the Feb. 13, 2021 Chilliwack school board byelection. Here, he poses at his store in 2017. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
VIDEO: Byelection candidate Richard Procee hopes to ‘introduce good conversation’ to Chilliwack school board

Procee discusses his involvement with his church, views on SOGI 123 and politics

Rose Sawka, 91, waves to her son through the window of a care home in Prince Rupert in October. Residents of the care home received their first vaccine dose Jan. 20. (K-J Millar/The Northern View)
B.C. care home visitor access to expand by March, Dix says

Staff, residents, essential visitors top priorities for vaccine

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) is looking into the death of man discovered Jan. 11 in east Maple Ridge. (Black Press files)
B.C.’s police watchdog investigating man’s death in Maple Ridge

Man was found dead Jan. 11 after recent contact with police

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

Most Read