Two men charged after two church services with more than 100 unmasked people: Chatham-Kent police

·2 min read

Chatham-Kent police have charged two men, a 50-year-old and 43-year-old, from a church in Wheatley for holding back-to-back church services with more than 100 unmasked people over the weekend.

Just after 11 a.m. on Dec. 26 and Dec. 27, police responded to reports of a large gathering at the Old Colony Mennonite Church in Wheatley. According to two separate news releases, police said they observed more than 100 unmasked people inside the church on both days.

Under current provincial 'grey-lockdown' restrictions, only 10 people are allowed indoors and according to Chatham-Kent bylaw, masks are required during worship.

A 50-year-old Merlin man was charged on Dec. 26 with failing to comply with a section under the Reopening Ontario Act and is scheduled to attend court on Jan 27, 2021. On Dec. 27, a 43-year-old Merlin man was also charged and scheduled to attend court at a later date.

Chatham-Kent police said there is no set fine at this time as the courts will be left to decide that. They also said that Chatham-Kent Public Health has been made aware of the incidents.

Both news releases state that all participants in the church complied with the officers' requests to end the church service immediately and leave the property.

More than $39K raised for Windsor pastor charged

More than $39,000 has been raised for Harvest Bible Church, after lead pastor Rev. Aaron Rock was charged last week under the Reopening Ontario Act by Windsor police.

Rock was charged following a church service on Dec. 19. In an emailed statement Thursday, Windsor police confirmed the charge in relation to a gathering but said they have no further information to report.

Harvest Bible Church website
Harvest Bible Church website

Rev. Tony Costa from the church started a GoFundMe for Rock and in the description stated that, "In light of the Covid-19 restrictions, and having complied for many months with the legal regulations, Aaron decided to open his church for the many who were hurting, depressed, anxious, unemployed, and some with suicidal ideations in order to provide a haven of support and ministry outreach."

CBC News has reached out to the church for comment, but has not yet heard back.

The news release from the church on Thursday said that to its knowledge "this is the first time that any Ontario pastor has been charged for fulfilling his God-assigned duties at a church."