Canadian Pastor Who Was Jailed For Holding Worship Service Said Prison Stay Allowed Him To Share Gospel To Inmates

GraceLife Pastor James Coates

The pastor who was held for violating Canada's public health rules revealed that he was able to share the gospel to other prisoners, a report says.

Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta was released on March 22 after more than a month in jail.

In an interview with Sheila Gunn Reid of Rebel News, captured by FaithWire, the pastor was asked if he was able to minister to some inmates during his incarceration.

"Once I got into [general public], I would have guys often come to my door and want to speak with me and would share difficulties in their life with me, and I would share the Gospel with them. We'd be talking through a door to each other, but I would share the Gospel with them. That happened often, where guys would just come to me," Pastor Coates replied.

In addition, he said that an inmate in the cell next door requested to have a Bible study. The pastor granted his request and when they were already holding the session, some men came to join with them.

The pastor also stated that he had plenty of opportunities to share the Gospel while in prison.

Further, Pastor Coates recalled the moment when he was leaving, at the time of his release.

"Just to kind of show the affection that we had for each other, in the moment I was leaving, I turned around ... and I lifted up my hand to wave, and the doors of the pod began to shake as the men in their cells just banged on their doors as a sign of support, love, [and] affection," he said.

He continued by saying that he was with the jail chaplain when it happened.

"He's emailed me since then and shared with me that he'll never forget that moment. It was precious to me as well. That just gives you a little picture of how they thought toward me and treated me."

The pastor was also fined with $1,500 but provincial court Judge Jeffrey Champion has written it off, crediting the 35 days he spent in prison.

The judge reprimanded the pastor, saying that his "decisions could have affected the health and safety" of his "fellow citizens." But Pastor Coates responded, stating that he was only obeying Jesus Christ.

John Klassen set up a GoFundMe account to support the pastor and has already raised more than $45,000.

Klassen is also requesting support for Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a legal organization that represented Pastor Coates in court. As of this time, it has raised more than $1,200 of its $5,000 goal.

ChurchLeaders said that the pastor was issued another ticket for a violation in December last year. He exceeded the 15% capacity limitation imposed on houses of worship. He is set to appear in court on May 3.

GraceLife Church itself was charged for breaching the province's pandemic regulation, exceeding the imposed 15% capacity limitation on Feb. 21 and 28. The church's legal counsel was summoned on March 4, requesting to appear before the Stony Plain provincial court on May 5.