A church service of approximately two hundred congregants ended in several arrests on Sunday afternoon during a testy situation with armed police officers who had been called to Blue Creek to follow up on a report regarding a large gathering. Statutory Instrument 136 issued on October sixth, limits church services to no more than ten persons, excluding the host and two auxiliary personnel. According to Pastor Walter Kornelson, they were administering a service at his church and the congregation was at seating capacity when armed officers showed up. The police say those in the gathering were not wearing face masks and had exceeded the limit allowed under law. When they attempted to arrest the congregants, a stand-off ensued, which resulted in the blocking of the main entrance to the community when the police attempted to leave the community. Seven church leaders being arrested and transported to Orange Walk. But they did not make it to town as somewhere along the journey the officers were called off and instructed to release the pastors and the mayor. Here is their account of what happened.
Abram Rempel, Mayor, Blue Creek
“We had a visit from the police force yesterday at one of our neighboring churches. They came under this one directive from the police force to check on the churches because of not following the protocols for COVID-19 which has been a topic that no one is unfamiliar with and that is why we’re here today. We had them come in and wanted to stop the operation, the worship. I want to be very clear, it’s a worship service that was happening and they wanted to stop them from doing the services and what we had agreed upon is that we would present ourselves to not let that happen. So when the unit was notified that the whole community was brought to the attention of what was happening, the community at large was going there to see how we could stand with our brothers in Christ. It was for the most part, most officers were gentle and understanding and also considerate and a few were a bit harsh and stuff, so at the time when they decided that they were going to make arrests and they wanted to take some people, some of the leaders and that included mostly church leaders, including myself, the mayor of Blue Creek. And they said for us to get up on the truck and move and go, so we all got up and we went. So we drove, since it was a few miles through the community, we drove off and we had no communication with where it was going and what was happening until we were not quite to the police station, they turned around and they went back and not quite halfway they stopped on the road and they said that we got a call to release you.”
Walter Kornelson, Pastor, Mennonite Church
“We are having a little bit of a smaller church and yes, we have limited services as well and yesterday we had a special dedication for a minister, so yes, our church was full to seating capacity. That’s what we adhered to and this was a surprise to us but the officers said they had to check on us because we were recorded. And we seriously wish that the government would consider to reopen the churches. We plead with the government that they come and dialogue with us and see how we can operate the churches because, as was told already, there are statements in the bible which we firmly believe that we have to obey the Supreme Being rather than the government if the government’s rules contradicts what the bible says. The bible is our guide, what we believe and what we try to follow and that’s why we’ve tried to be very gentle with the officers. I don’t think that any officer will complain about us not being gentle.”