Pastor Tim Stephens, a Canadian pastor who was imprisoned for leading outdoor worship services following a church lockdown, shares how his imprisonment allowed him to preach to inmates.
In an interview with Rebel News, the pastor of Fairview Baptist Church said that the other prisoners received him very well.
"When they understood why I was there, they didn't think it was right for me to be there," he said. "They would call me 'pastor,' they would open up about their own problems and want counsel, want advice. Even inmates who were hardened atheists came to appreciate where I was coming from and we developed a good friendship among those other inmates there in jail."
The Canadian pastor claimed he had been in prison for 17 nights and 18 days.
He noted that, as a result of COVID-19 constraints, the Remand Centre's cells are very sparse, and inmates spend 23 and a half hours each day in their cells.
"It's a very dehumanizing experience," the pastor shared. "Basically, you're put into a small cage and you're left there not really knowing what the next coming hours or days or weeks even may bring."
As previously reported, Stephens was arrested when a police helicopter found where he was conducting outdoor worship services with his congregation. Police officers drove to his residence and arrested him in the presence of his crying children.
Following his arrest, Stephens was originally scheduled to stay in custody at the Calgary Remand Centre until at least July 12. According to CBN News, on July 1, a court order that had kept the minister imprisoned was overturned, and he was released.
His thoughts on Calgary police, the bureaucracy, and advice to other Christians
During the post-jail interview with Rebel News, Stephens said that a sergeant had phoned him ahead of time to inform him of his arrest and to urge him to have his wife and children leave. The pastor and his wife both refused to follow the officer's advice.
"I think it wasn't necessarily that they were concerned about the trauma to the children," he said. "I think they were concerned about the image that would be upon the Calgary police and I pleaded with some of the officers. I know the Calgary police service is recognized as a great police service, and to see the things that are going on today, I'm just hoping that it doesn't ruin their reputation."
The pastor found it difficult to believe that what he and other pastors had experienced occurred in Canada, which was supposed to be a free country. He said that he knew pastors who moved to Alberta when things were too difficult in their own provinces, because they saw Alberta as a haven of freedom.
"Here in Alberta, they've jailed three pastors, and this is not over yet. I don't imagine this is going to end anytime soon," he continued. "There's been a real change and shift in the political landscape, even among conservatives, about the role of the government, and about the use of force and enforcement."
He then encouraged Christians to "obey Christ first and foremost," and to learn to draw the line as to how far the government may be granted authority over their lives and daily affairs.
"Otherwise. that line will keep on shifting as the government keeps on moving their goalposts, and we're never going to stand for the Lord Jesus Christ," he said.