Wheatley church member charged after large Sunday gathering

Old Colony Mennonite Church (Photo via Google Maps)

Another member of a church in Wheatley has been charged for breaking the Reopening Ontario Act, which restricts large gatherings.

Chatham-Kent police said officers were called to the Old Colony Mennonite Church on Wheatley Road on Sunday for a report of a large gathering and saw 87 unoccupied vehicles in the parking lot. Police said a short time later, several adults and children were seen leaving the church without masks covering their faces. Police said they spoke to a church member who confirmed that 128 members attended mass and that there were also children present in separate classrooms.

As a result of the investigation, a 44-year-old Wheatley man, who has not been named by police, was charged Tuesday night with failing to comply with an order under the Reopening Ontario Act. He has a hearing at Provincial Offences Court on May 19, 2021.

In a statement released to the media, Police Chief Gary Conn said he is at a loss to explain why this keeps happening and urges the public to keep obeying mandatory COVID-19 health and safety rules.

“It is unfortunate that some people still choose to not comply with the law considering these laws are put into place for everyone’s safety, including those who choose to break them,” said Conn. “This pandemic requires a concerted effort by all our citizens in order to abate and eventually eradicate. It is only through compliance, cooperation and collaboration that we will overcome this virus. I am once again urging citizens to please comply and assist us in helping you.”

The same church allegedly held two large illegal gatherings on December 26, 2020 and December 27, 2020. A 50-year-old man, who is a church member, took responsibility for the gathering on December 26 and was charged with failing to comply with the Reopening Ontario Act. A 43-year-old member of the church was charged with the same offence for the gathering on December 27.