Three months ago, the Premier of Ontario ordered all the churches to close as part of the emergency orders. The initial messaging was, “14 days to flatten the curve.” Over time, that seemed to change, and as it changed I grew more concerned.
Knowing the trouble that people can get into when not at church my heart became more heavy as the days and weeks moved on. It seemed like darkness had fallen upon the land, especially when church was closed on Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. We held a drive-in service this past Sunday, and I beamed with gladness to watch people roll into the lot, many of whom I had not seen in three months.
Today the Premier of Ontario said that all churches can open this weekend at 30% capacity. I am relieved. It is an answer to prayer. God has heard the cries of His people.
In that, there are some people who need to be honoured. Pastors Joe Boot and Aaron Rock wrote a letter to the Premier and launched their reopenontariochurches.ca site. With well over 400 churches, they petitioned the Premier to uphold our religious freedom and allow the churches to lawfully gather. Pastor Joe Boot is the founding pastor of the Westminster Chapel at High Park in Toronto and president of the Ezra Instituted for Contemporary Christianity in Grimsby. Pastor Aaron Rock is the founding pastor of Harvest Bible Church in Windsor. They are both dear brothers, and I am honoured to count them as friends. Not only did they draft a letter and organize hundreds of churches, but they spent countless hours advocating to bureaucrats and politicians on behalf of the Bride of Christ. Pastors Joe and Aaron are heroes. I know for a fact that today’s announcement is a direct result of their efforts. They deserve great honour among our churches for their work. Only on the day of judgment will we be able to fully appreciate the eternal ramifications of their work on behalf of the most precious institution on earth and the Christian people who were purchased by the blood of Christ.
There are several others who deserve honourable mention. Constitutional litigators James Kitchen and Lisa Bildy, who both work for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom, advised pastors, including me, on how best to proceed, and they also advocated before the authorities on our behalf.
Our own church attempted to make contact with multiple politicians and bureaucrats. Member of Provincial Parliament, from Cambridge, Belinda Karahalios reached out to me personally with several phone calls, including one very lengthy call with me, our elder chairman, and a handful of pastors I invited. Caring about the situation, she was in regular contact with me over the last few months, and, given what she’s said and knowing her concern for the churches, I have every reason to believe that she advocated on our behalf in caucus.
While many put in a great effort and deserve honour, we must acknowledge that this is ultimately the answer to the prayers of thousands of Christians in Ontario over the last several months. Heaven has heard us.
Even as we remain grateful for this very positive step, we will continue to pray that the 30% limit increases to 100% capacity soon. But we can pause for a moment of celebration and thanksgiving to our God who has remembered us.