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Aylmer’s The Church of God
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The parking lot at the Church of God in Aylmer Ont., has been jammed-packed with vehicles every Sunday morning since Easter as the church holds drive-in services during this coronavirus pandemic.

The Aylmer police and the church have had “discussions” regarding the drive-in services and whether or not the church was breaking the province’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. A section of the act states that all gatherings of more than five people to conduct religious services, rites or ceremonies are banned to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

When the Church of God began its drive-in services complaints were made to police by people worried that provincial orders were being violated and in response, Police advised the church to cancel its third drive-in service, but the church went ahead anyway and welcomed at least 61 cars. Police took no action other than videotaping the service and those attending.

A spokesman from the Aylmer Police Service said that at the time that a summons was to be issued to the persons that need to be summoned for breaching a portion of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and that they were consulting with the Crown attorney’s office.

Later in May, the police later announced they would not fine the church despite determining they have “reasonable and probable grounds” to do so.

In a written statement, Aylmer police said they have “decided to use the incident on the 26th of April as an educational tool for the ‘Church of God’ organizers and parishioners, so they have a clear understanding that the gathering is in violation of the emergency order.”

A sign outside the Church of God in Aylmer Ont., comparing churches to services that were deemed essential by the provide amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Sawyer Bogdan/980 CFPL
Every Sunday since the Church of God’s first drive-in service the number of vehicles has steadily grown and now some cars are forced to park by the side of the road due to the lack of parking space.

Parishioners are always asked to stay inside their parked vehicles in the parking lot with the windows rolled up and listen to the service through a radio signal.

The pastor of the church, Henry Hildebrandt, said that his reason for not cancelling drive-in services and only conducting services through live streams is that he felt that live streams lacking a sense of community.

On May 16th, Ontario Premier Doug Ford signed an amendment to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that provides guidelines and clear permission for all churches to hold drive-in or parking lot services.

This is a direct answer to our prayers and we thank God for it, said Pastor Hildebrandt, “We are grateful to the Premier and his Cabinet for providing clarity for Christians across Ontario. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (in particular, Lisa Bildy) have been instrumental in providing legal counsel and their assistance has been invaluable. This is an important step in the right direction as we navigate the process of reopening our churches across the province.

“Provinces across Canada and countries around the globe have endorsed drive-in services as a temporary measure as it allows for an expression of community without violating public health objectives and we are pleased that Ontario has followed suit.”

While the amendment to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act provides permission for all churches to hold drive-in or parking lot services, not many have moved forward with similar types of services.

Most churches are looking further into the future and planning for a controlled reopening of their churches as soon as the Province gives the green light. The “green light” will occur in Phase 3 of the Province’s reopening plan which may be a region by region reopening or a Province wide reopening.

Reopening Ontario in stages

A Framework for Reopening our Province lays out Ontario’s approach to restarting the economy. It includes guiding principles and public health recommendations the government will use to gradually and safely reopen businesses, services and public spaces.

Three stages
Our framework for reopening the economy includes three stages. There will be time between the launch of each stage to allow us to learn from each one and for health experts to assess conditions before moving to the next stage when it is safe to do so. This will determine if measures should be adjusted, loosened or tightened. This approach will allow the government to make sure there are appropriate measures in place to reopen safely and limit health risks.

Stage 1
In effect as of May 19, 2020

The list and details of the industry services and retail that could reopen as of May 19th can be seen by clicking HERE.

Stage 2
In the second stage, the Province will consider:
  • opening more workplaces
  • opening more public spaces
  • allowing some larger public gatherings
  • continued protections for vulnerable populations

Stage 3
In the final stage, the Province will consider
  • opening all workplaces in a responsible way
  • relaxing restrictions on public gatherings
  • continued protections for vulnerable populations
  • The government will continue to be methodical and transparent. We will continue to update the public and add more details to this page as the COVID‑19 situation evolves.

This gradual, measured approach will allow Ontario to emerge from this crisis with a clear path to economic recovery that keeps people safe and healthy.

How to participate in reopening consultations
Tell us about the economic impacts of the COVID 19 outbreak on your business. Your input will be shared with the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee and used to help make decisions about reopening our province and recovering following COVID 19.

Provide your input to the Province by clicking HERE

Ideas can also be submitted by email at or by mail:
The Honourable Rod Phillips
Minister of Finance
c/o Budget Secretariat
Frost Building North, 3rd Floor
95 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1Z1