Canadian pastor arrested over worship service freed from prison

Tim Stephens, the pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, speaks during a sermon in June 2020.(YouTube/Fairview Baptist Church)

A Canadian pastor says he is "thankful" to be freed from prison after being detained over an outdoor worship service. 

Pastor Tim Stephens, of Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary, Alberta, was arrested on 14 June over the service that local authorities said breached Covid regulations. 

The service was held outdoors after health officials forcibly closed his church.

He spent two and a half weeks in prison before being freed on Thursday, the same day as Alberta lifted nearly all remaining Covid-19 restrictions, allowing churches to meet indoors again. 

Speaking after his release, Stephens said he was thankful to God for sustaining his church through the pandemic. 

"Today is a very thankful day," he said, according to Rebel News. "I'm thankful that the restrictions are done and rescinded, including the court orders that go along with that.

"[M]ost of all, I'm thankful for God. I'm thankful that He's built His church, that He's sustained our church at Fairview Baptist Church. I'm thankful that He strengthened me, my wife, and our family, and that, through this, people have come to know the saving love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"People have been strengthened in this country and around the world, and so, for these many reasons, I'm thankful."

Stephens has had several run-ins with the authorities during the pandemic over restrictive measures for places of worship. 

In May, he was arrested over another service that allegedly flouted Covid-19 rules. He spent two nights in prison before being released. 

He still faces a court hearing on July 14 to determine what, if any, penalties he faces for violations of Covid regulations.