We have been anticipating these present lockdown measures for many months thinking it was highly unlikely that places of worship would be completely closed again. If you recall, when the previous round of restriction measures were announced, the government had proceeded to close churches completely, forbidding any gatherings to take place. It was only because of the petitions of certain religious groups to the government highlighting the blatant discrimination that churches were suffering compared to cinemas and theatres that the government reversed its rules and allowed for a maximum of 25 people to gather in places of worship. What people imagined as being unlikely has now become a reality as the church is now closed, despite no recorded cases of infection or outbreaks associated with places of worship. The measures taken were unfounded, unconstitutional and downright wrong even in the face of a so-called emergency.
To be clear, we acknowledge that this virus, is real; we have never denied that, but the mortality rate has been overly exaggerated. We mourn the loss of all life and that is without question, because the Church of Jesus Christ stands for life. That is why we feel that something must be done, before even more lives are lost.
The Church of Jesus Christ is Essential regardless of whether one is an adherent to Christianity or not. The Church was established by God and not by governments. As such, it is not within the purview of governments to impose any sanctions or restrictions against the Church which would hinder her from functioning and fulfilling her purpose.
The CHURCH IS ESSENTIAL, and the following are some of the reasons why.
1. IT IS AN INALIENABLE RIGHT AS STATED AND PROTECTED BY THE CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS.
Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms
1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
With its policies and its decrees, and in its zeal to save our society and our land, the government has cast aside the very the rights and freedoms upon which this society and this land are founded, and which are enshrined in our fundamental law.
2. WE VALUE EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE
The government has focused on only one aspect of life. Initially their efforts were directed to on protecting lives from what was reported to be an extremely lethal virus that had the potential of killing 4 to 5% of the population (according to early estimates). We now have come to understand through the mounting data that 0.26% of people have died from this virus and this according to the very limited testing sample. In all its deliberations, what the government failed to consider was the spiritual and mental effects their measures would have on the population over the last 11 months.
The Church offers spiritual, physical and mental support that is vitally important in days like these. Anxiety, depression, physical abuse, drug and alcohol abuse and suicide are all on the rise and their negative impact is already far greater than the mortality rate associated with Covid-19. Furthermore, as a result of haphazard measures and policies enacted by the government, thousands of people who were already struggling and living paycheck to paycheck, have now plunged below the poverty line. Not only has this decline resulted in physical anguish but also contributed to a great sense of hopelessness and despair. The government laments shortages of psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists yet justifies the closing of places of faith where people in search of help in uncertain times, can receive the hope, comfort and counseling they need.
Listed below are some alarming statistics that further justify how truly essential the Church is to society.
Increase in Suicides and Suffering Mental Health:
On October 20, 2020, Radio Canada reported that there are double the amount of calls for help at 811, and notably an “explosion of calls” after premier Legault does a press conference with increased cases.
In an article published by CBC on October 23, 2020, they stated that 46% of Montrealers aged 18 to 24 years report symptoms generalized anxiety or major depression. As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, an increasing number of young people say the situation is wearing on their mental health, according to research by Montreal public health.
According to Statistics Canada data, Canadians as a whole have reported increasingly poor mental health since the beginning of the pandemic.
On October 28, 2020, CTV stated that according to a recent survey from Quebec psychologists, 86 percent of patients have reported increased mental distress. 75% have had depressive symptoms, and just over half have had problems with concentration, memory and attention.
Global News posted on November 2, 2020 that Quebec was injecting $100M into mental health services, as the “novel coronavirus pandemic” continues. Legault says his government is worried the pandemic is causing a rise in mental health problems and says it is hiring more therapists and psychologists to meet people’s needs.
The Toronto Star reported on December 5, 2020 that one in ten Canadians say they have contemplated suicide since they pandemic began! Psychiatry research from the University of Toronto projects extreme increases in suicide in Canada as a direct consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Increase in Both Child and Domestic Abuse:
As reported by Children First Canada on September 1, 2020, statistics confirm that COVID-19 poses a direct threat to child health and well-being in Canada. In recent months, the harsh realities facing young Canadians have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This report discloses that 1/3 of children in Canada do not enjoy a safe and healthy childhood; one in three Canadians has experienced abuse before the age of 15; one in five children live in poverty, and suicide is now the leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 14.
According to Crowdsourced data: Suicide remains the second leading cause of death for youth aged 15-24 and is now the leading cause of death for children aged 10-14! The WHO calls violence against children the hidden crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An October 15, 2020 CTV News reported that calls to Canadian domestic violence helplines have jumped during the pandemic. Calls to police which were related to domestic disturbances have increased by nearly 12 %.
Increase in Substance Abuse:
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed Canadians’ lives in previously unimaginable ways in a very short period of time.
Canadians who rated their mental health as fair or poor were 4 times more likely to report increased use of cannabis, alcohol or tobacco since the pandemic began, as stated by Statistics Canada in a report released in the summer of 2020.
It also comes as no surprise that sales at the SAQ & SQDC are skyrocketing. Statistia reported the reasons for the increase of alcohol consumption of which 51% was due to the lack of regular schedule.
The pandemic is also causing immeasurable financial strain on individuals.
Statistics Canada has reported that 29% of Canadians declared that the COVID-19 situation is having a moderate or major impact on their ability to meet financial obligations or essential needs (up from 18.6% in 2017) and 15% of Canadians indicated living in a household where they experienced food insecurity in the past 30 days which is up from 8.7 % in 2017/2018.
A labour force survey from Statistics Canada stated that 1.1 million Canadian workers were affected by the COVID-19 economic shutdown in December 2020 alone.
These are but a sample of the endless data and statistics pointing to the catastrophic effects that the pandemic and lockdown has had on people of all ages. For these reasons and because the Church can help meet the needs of the people of our society who are suffering, the Church’s role is essential and needs to be recognized as such.
3. WE SERVE GOD AND THEREFORE OBEY HIM ABOVE ALL ELSE
Christ is Lord of all. He is the one true head of the Church (Ephesians 1:22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18). He is also King of kings—sovereign over every earthly authority (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16). Good News Chapel has always stood on these unchangeable Biblical principles.
As His people, we are subject to His will and commands as revealed in Scripture. Therefore, we cannot acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings. Compliance is disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.
Some will think such a firm statement is in direct conflict with the command to be subject to governing authorities laid out in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2. Scripture does mandate careful, conscientious obedience to all governing authority, including kings, governors, employers, and their agents (in Peter’s words, “not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable” [1 Peter 2:18]). So long as government authorities do not attempt to assert ecclesiastical authority or issue orders that forbid our obedience to God’s law, their authority is to be obeyed whether we agree with their rulings or not. In other words, Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 still binds the consciences of individual Christians. We are to obey our civil authorities as powers that God Himself has ordained. However, while civil government is invested with divine authority to rule the state, neither of those Biblical texts (nor any other) grants civic rulers a jurisdiction over the Church.
The government has grossly overreached and it is our duty to honour God.
For these reasons, the Church must be recognized as “essential” and be uninhibited from practicing the freedom to assemble and worship, and to fulfill it’s God-given role to be the light of the World during a very dark time. The Good News of Jesus Christ is the only hope for our city and our world.
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