Canadian Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church held services last Sunday. Normally, this would be an unremarkable fact – but given he was recently released from jail only to see his church fenced off and shut down by authorities, it’s made this worship service all the more impactful.
Earlier, GraceLife published their service online, with congregants faces blurred out of the picture.
Pastor Coates greeted those in attendance at the “undisclosed location” by saying, “they can take our facility, but we’ll just find another one.”
A few moments later, two gentlemen (who were only identified in the video as Joe and John) came forward to lead the congregation in song. One of the men began by saying, “Did you ever think you’d be part of the underground church?” Shortly after, they led a beautiful rendition of “It is Well With My Soul” in which the congregation joined in, despite their profiles being intentionally blurred out so as not to be identified on video.
After singing concluded, Pastor Coates took to the microphone to deliver his sermon. Coates said he had been planning to preach from Psalm 56, but said he’d had a nagging feeling that it wasn’t the right Psalm for the upcoming service. After the church was shut down, he said it was confirmation he needed to change course.
“We need a Psalm more appropriate for an occasion like this. We need to hear a ‘Jesus is Lord’ kind of sermon,” he explained. That led Coates to Psalm 2, in which he says “As we read Psalm 2, I want you to consider that what we see taking place in this Psalm though it really describes something yet future to us, is a sense in which this is taking right now at present,” Coates said.
He then went on to read Psalm 2, which says:
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
Pastor Coates titled the sermon “A Vain Thing” and after explaining the context of Psalm 2, went on to discuss how Psalm 2 paralleled today in various ways. He said, “governments all over the world are counselling together in a unified effort to oppress the people they govern.”
“In that context, those who are faithful, those who follow Christ and confess that Jesus is Lord are going to be the ones they have to silence and get out of the way because everyone else is going to fall in line.
“It’s going to be the Lord’s people who stand and herald him as king and call governments to submit to him as king and to govern in accord with the very Word that will judge them on judgement day. Even as we think about our own government, we have called them to their duty.
“Unmistakably, we have directed them to their duty. They know they are going to be judged in accordance with the Word of God, that the Word of God is going to be the standard with which they are assessed and evaluated and they still continue to persevere in their obstinacy. This is defiance.”
After the sermon and prayer, the service closed with a singing of How Great Thou Art and a word from 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, which reads:
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”
One video circulating on social media showed what appeared to be a great deal of RCMP officers at GraceLife on Sunday.
Officers with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police came out en masse Sunday as protesters descended on GraceLife Church in Alberta, Canada, where police barricaded the worship centre, barring congregants’ access to the church.
In a statement issued to the media Sunday, the RCMP said it was on the scene in Edmonton to preserve “peace” and “maintain public safety,” claiming as it has been barring the free exercise of religion — that it recognises “everyone has a right to peaceful freedom of expression.”
California-based Pastor John MacArthur commended the members of GraceLife as they have begun meeting privately amid a continued government crackdown on their freedom to hold worship services.
In an email to Faithwire Monday morning, GraceLife Associate Pastor Jake Spenst confirmed the church is meeting at an undisclosed location and broadcasting its services on YouTube.
“Amazing to have an underground church in Canada,” said MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley. “This is because the government of Alberta triple-fenced the church in and locked it so people couldn’t get there.”
The American preacher said there is now “a massive outcry” of support for the Canadian church as it continues to face intense restrictions.
A supporter of religious freedom of expression stated that these are pockets of signs of tribulation and persecution unfolding right before our eyes and it is time for believers across the globe to strip them selves of denominational badges, arise as one on their knees and in action to show they are not ashamed of the gospel even to the point of martyrdom.