A Local Pastor’s Open Letter to the Town of Aylmer (and those looking in)

I live in Aylmer, Ontario. I’m a resident, a father, a youth soccer coach, and a pastor here. I have been saddened this week to see my town in the national news with our squabbles on display. I would be happier if this was not what we are becoming notorious for. 

I am fully “awake” AND I wear my mask regularly. I am not afraid of my government. In fact, I’m thankful for and I pray for my government, as I am instructed to do in 1 Tim. 2:1-2. I don’t agree with all of the decisions my government makes, but I also don’t have to make decisions for 14 million people, and I don’t have all the information I need to make decisions of that magnitude. 

There’s a protest planned for Saturday. It is legal to protest and express your opinions, and that’s a good thing. We need greater diversity of opinion on how to navigate our way through this difficult time. I won’t be attending, but that doesn’t mean I don’t agree with some of the points that will be made. 

It seems likely at this point that many from outside our town are coming to join this protest. Our mayor wants everyone to be safe and has taken appropriate action to ensure that’s the case. That’s also a good thing, but because she has done this, she has reportedly received threats to her safety. This is evil and cowardly. 

Defiance and Obedience

Over the last months as I have prayed, pondered, observed, and lived through this time of upheaval and uncertainty, a number of thoughts and commitments have become clear to me. 

  1. Defiance is sometimes necessary, but blind defiance is no better than blind obedience. Blind defiance and blind obedience are both unhealthy, knee-jerk reactions. Informed defiance and informed obedience can have a conversation; blind defiance and blind obedience can only have conflict. I will stay informed, enter many conversations, and  follow the laws of my province while at the same time making it known that I think there are better ways. This is how a healthy democracy works. 
  1. Of all the things Canadian Christians could be at this point, I think grateful ranks near the top. We have more freedoms than people in most other countries do, our governments, while imperfect, are responsive as they adapt to a situation that is still developing, and our worship spaces have fewer restrictions than almost all other similar spaces. (Thank you, Premier Ford)
  1. I do not believe that freedom means I don’t have to submit to anyone’s authority. God has placed people in places of authority (Romans 13:1-7) and it is my privilege and duty to submit to their authority (1 Peter 2:13-17) unless they compel me to do something that God considers sin (Acts 5:27-32). If I was convinced that this is what’s happening right now, I would be the one organizing and leading the protests. (I am, after all, a PROTESTant pastor.)
  1. I will not use my platform as a pastor to grandstand, collect followers, encourage rebellion, or make myself feel important. I will not confuse my calling as a pastor for an unexpressed but obvious aspiration to enter politics. I have no desire to be Aylmer’s most influential unelected politician. If I want to be a politician, I should run for office in the next election. 
  1. I will look first to the Bible to guide my thought and behaviour, not to the constitution of the great country in which I live. As I use the words of scripture, I will use them responsibly and according to their context. Parachuting out-of-context biblical passages into a speech doesn’t make the speech stronger. All it does is bring dishonour and disrepute to the scriptures. 
  1. I will not use the language of peace while hinting at insurrection. Inferring that those who abide by the mask mandate would have been Nazi supporters in earlier times is a dangerous and disgusting tactic. And after all, if your enemies are Nazis then violence is warranted, isn’t it? If anything, forcing a derogatory label on other community members – as if it were a visible badge – is the behaviour that needs to be called out. (I know that protest organizers can’t control every element of a public protest, but I do hope they will publicly rebuke this element of the protest if it is again on display, as it was at the last protest. See picture below.)
  1. I will continue to do what I can to love and remain in conversation with the people in my community, regardless of what they believe about masks or vaccines or any other hot topic.

P.S.

If you’ve been monitoring the situation for long, you might assume that the one Aylmer pastor you see constantly in the limelight represents the other pastors and churches in our community. As far as I am aware, he represents no other church except his own. In his many speeches and broadcasts, he frequently attempts to goad other pastors into joining his crusade. So far, no pastor that I know of has taken the bait. And that’s because the gospel is STILL not under assault in Aylmer, Ontario.

All the pastors I know in my community are working hard to care for people both inside and outside their churches. 

Like me, they are not afraid. Like me, if they were convinced that the government was trying to pressure us to sin against God, they would speak out.