A church in Canada has been fined $83,000 dollars for holding a service on Jan. 24 and defying government orders limiting in-person worship to 10 or fewer people. Senior pastor Jacob Reaume said that Jesus is worth the cost of holding the service and that he and “many others” experienced God in a remarkable way that day.
“Personally,” said Reaume in a Feb. 25 blog post, “I have never experienced a more palpable manifest presence of God’s Holy Spirit during public worship than I did on that Sunday. Many others—I have lost track of how many—shared similar experiences…On Sunday, February 21, we baptized 13 individuals, some of whom traced their conversion to those weeks in January, especially January 24.”
Reaume leads Trinity Bible Chapel (TBC) in Waterloo, a city in the Canadian province of Ontario. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ordered TBC to pay fines in the amount of $83,000. According to TBC, the amount encompasses a fine of $15,000 for the church and $3,000 fines for each of its elders. Reaume and another pastor, Will Schuurman, owe fines of $5,000 each, while another pastor owes a fine of $4,000. Finally, the court has ordered the church to pay $45,000 to cover the Ministry of the Attorney General’s legal fees.
“If you hadn’t opened the church in January, I don’t think I would have been saved!”
Another story of God’s amazing grace 👇👇 pic.twitter.com/RyCZu95SF2
— Will Schuurman (@wschuurman) February 4, 2021
Jacob Reaume: We Are Loving Our Neighbor
On Jan. 22, Reaume posted a blog inviting people to worship inperson, saying, “We are opening the doors of Trinity Bible Chapel this Sunday when we will hold in-person Lord’s Day services at both 9:00 AM and 11:15 AM.” Reaume mentioned the harm people face due to isolation as a reason for opening the church, and he specifically addressed the principle of loving one’s neighbor as a reason for meeting face to face.
Loving one’s neighbor is a common idea brought up by those who believe churches should follow government guidelines for refraining from meeting in person. “People are lonely, afraid, despairing of life itself, and facing financial ruin, among many other deprivations and tribulations,” said Reaume. “This is all during the darkest and coldest season of the year. If ever our fellow Ontarians needed hope, it is now.”
Reaume argued that the government is targeting churches directly and said that TBC’s decision to meet had a precedent in the Old Testament account of Daniel’s defiance of King Darius. The pastor said that during the service, TBC would follow a Risk Mitigation Strategy and observe many of the safety precautions that have been common during the pandemic. These include requiring people to wear masks, regular sanitizing and cleaning, designated entrances and exits, and hand sanitizer stations.
On Feb. 2, Reaume posted another blog saying that there had been four threats against the church, all of which had been reported to the Waterloo Regional Police Service. The pastor referred to the threats as persecution and said, “Threats or smears, we must embrace the reproach of the cross with honour. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. So that is what we will do.”
In his Feb. 25 post, Reaume explained that the most distressing aspect of the fines is not the exorbitant dollar amount, but the fact that the authorities perceive the church to be disrespectful. The pastor quoted the justice of the court as saying, “There is no apology or demonstration of remorse for the conduct of the case. The Contemnors assert that they are conflicted. However, they do not apologize for their breach of this Order.”
Reaume maintained that the church does in fact respect government authorities. “To be absolutely clear, we respect the court and its authority,” he said. “The Bible teaches us to honour all those in authority, and we do. But like all authority, the authority of our courts is derived. The court’s authority comes from above.” Reaume went on to explain how he believes TBC is following the example of Jesus and Christians throughout history—as well as following the preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The preamble says, “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.”
Reaume drew a parallel between the extravagance of the amount the church owes and the extravagant cost of the ointment the woman in Matthew 26 used to anoint Jesus. “The woman thought Christ was worth the money, but Judas thought He wasn’t,” said the pastor. “She went down in history for doing good, but Judas was a traitor who would have been better off not being born.” He continued,
On January 24, we worshipped Christ extravagantly at the price of $83,000. He is worth that and so much more. Our fine is nothing near what Mary spent on Jesus for her one quick extravagant act of worship. And we cannot compare it to the price of blood He paid so that we would worship Him.
Reaume said that the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing TBC pro bono, and he asked for donations for the centre. He also linked to a GoFundMe page TBC set up on Jan. 3 to cover the cost of the fines it anticipated. The fundraising goal is set at $150,000. According to the page, any money raised over the cost of the fines will go toward the church. As of this writing, TBC has raised over $44,500.