Over the weekend ending on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, Kingston residents took their frustrations online after people discovered a local church was suggesting Toronto residents travel to Kingston for a service despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, Third Day Worship Centre didn’t create the post on social media that was the subject of this frustration. The post was created by T.J. Malcangi-Salvation Now, the Facebook account of T.J. Malcangi, a self-described Evangelist who “began preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ full time in January 2016,” according to his website.
“THIS SUNDAY ONLY! If you’re in Toronto & your church shut down, this one is less than 3 hours away! #Kingston #Ontario,” Malcangi’s post read, followed by links to register for either the a.m. or p.m. services on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020,which took place at Third Day Worship Centre.
With Toronto currently in the Grey-Lockdown level of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework, and Kingston currently in the Yellow-Protect level, many Kingstonians took to social media to voice concern and opposition to the idea of inviting Toronto residents to the KFL&A region. KFL&A Public Health has continually reiterated that travel outside of the KFL&A region, and travel between regions, should be reserved only for essential travel, as it is one of the easiest ways to transmit the COVID-19 virus between regions.
Malcangi, who is based out of Quebec, just finished touring through Alberta and Saskatchewan earlier in November.
Third Day Worship Centre did share Malcangi’s post on their own social media feed, however, the post was removed over the weekend. The church replaced the post with the following on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020:
“Addressing a false rumour, we have never participated in an anti-mask rally nor do we plan to. We are in full compliance to the KFLA guidelines.”
In fact, Pastor Francis Armstrong, the leader of Third Day Worship Centre, took a moment at the beginning of the 10:30 a.m. service on Sunday to address the matter. The video footage from that service and all other Third Day Worship Centre videos of services were removed from their website and various social media platforms sometime between 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 30, and 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020.
“It’s a beautiful day out there, and it’s a good time to be together and in the house of the Lord. Can everyone say Amen? Amen!” Armstrong began the 10:30 a.m. service, the second of three services that took place on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. At this point in the service, there were two women singing, both behind plexiglass, with a band wearing masks apart from the drummer, who was also behind plexiglass. Armstrong was not masked when speaking to the congregation from stage, but did produce a mask from his pocket to wear each time he left the stage.
“Isn’t it good to be together in the house of the Lord? Amen?” he continued, followed by some light clapping, prompting him to say, “Come on, you can do better than that!”
He then addressed the issue of the Facebook post.
“Let me just address this real quickly, Amen, that a mistake went out on our Facebook page. Amen, and we corrected it. There’s nobody from Toronto here, Amen, that’s in a lockdown zone. And no one will be here tonight, either, and there was no one in the first service, Amen?” he said, encouraging more response from those in attendance.
“So that was corrected by us, and so, I just wanted to say that. So that’s… we’re doing all the best that we can to follow protocols that are set out by our City, and by our province, and then it changes, we make those changes, too,” he said, prompting clapping from the crowd.
“They’re clapping hands because they’re testifying to that to being true.”
Armstrong went on to say that, in the Facebook world, “there’s a perception versus a reality,” but that the reality is the church is complying with municipal and provincial mandates during the pandemic.
“But the higher laws is the law of the Lord,” he said with a chuckle. “And we’re here to see people saved, even in the middle of a pandemic. And people changed, and people delivered, Amen?
“I hope that satisfies everybody, it never usually does, but I’m doing my best to say that’s exactly what happened, so… So you can be safe here, Amen!”
Armstrong then celebrated the birthday of a parishioner and discussed the church’s charitable contributions of late, including a food drive for the local food bank, and donations to Molly Brant Elementary School, where they sponsor students in the younger grades being able to get a gift each.
But as he introduced Malcangi, Armstrong took another moment to discuss pandemic-related matters.
“The Lord spoke to me, T.J., very clearly this last week, and he said one of the reasons the church is not essential is because we don’t act like it’s essential. Amen? But when we start to act like we’re essential, then the world will recognize us as essential, to help the spiritual needs of people,” he said.
“We have to act to our community that we’re essential. Because if we act like we’re not, then people just assume we’re not. But we are. Amen? We’re more essential than Chik-fil-A, or Mary Brown’s Chicken, or… they have Chik-fil-A only out west now, they have some out west, Amen! Good chicken! Amen, but it’s not essential.
“But the spiritual needs of people? They’re essential… And that’s why we’re essential. To help people. Amen? And we’re thankful to be able to do that, to gather together and help people.”
And while much of Malcangi’s address during the second service was not centred around the pandemic, he did make reference to the church being allowed to congregate, as well as laws and governmental powers.
“The legal system of the Pharisees has no bearing on what I do!” Malcangi exclaimed at one point, to an uproar of cheering.
“You think it’s wise to have church in a pandemic? You know, we’re to love our neighbours and part of loving our neighbours is just abiding by… Government restrictions and stuff,” he said referring to Romans, before then referring to Hebrews 10:25 and saying, “We’re not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together!”
Malcangi then went on to discuss how the current limiting of congregations to 30 per cent of their usual capacity was not only a matter of the pandemic.
“You should really obey government. We are, first of all, everything is in government regulation here. Limit 30 per cent and all that. But they don’t want to stop at just 30 per cent. If the governments would have their way, they would suppress, eliminate the church. You wanna know why? Because there’s an anti-Christ spirit that has never left the Earth,” he said amidst cheers of agreement.
“It was there in the days of Jesus, it was there in the days of Hitler, it was there in the days of Stalin, and he’s not going back to hell where he belongs, he’s still on the Earth, trying to enforce a globalist system to bring Revelations 13… That there would be a figure called anti-Christ, who would rise up in the last days, and would bring people under one world political system, one world money system, one world order, one world government, one world religion,” he continued, before focusing on how this concept can currently be seen within the Vatican (his opinion).
“Why do you think the Pope that they have there now? What is he doing? He’s having every religious leader come into the… they’ve never had that at the Vatican! Up until this guy. Praying together and all that,” he said, noting the messaging from the Vatican includes that everyone needs to co-exist.
“You know you love your neighbour. We’re not like radical terrorists trying to just burn down every… no, we don’t do things like that. We preach, and God does the convicting. We preach and God does the work. We’re not getting people in the kingdom by the sword, we’re getting them by the sword of the spirit.”
Response from Third Day Worship Centre
Kingstonist reached out to Third Day Worship Centre with a number of questions. According to the church, the 10:30 a.m. service was at 25.3 per cent capacity, and the evening service was at 23 per cent capacity, and no one from Toronto was present at any of the services.
“We invited T.J. Malcangi to speak at our services as this is his primary means of employment. Given the allowance of ‘workers’ to travel inter-provincially in both the Ontario and Quebec guidelines, we interpreted this to be permissible in both provinces,” Third Day Worship Centre said of why they chose to invite Malcangi during the pandemic.
With regard to the advertisement seen on Facebook, Third Day Worship Centre reiterated that they were not the author of the original post.
“We did share it on our Facebook page for the greater part of the day on Saturday, 28 Nov 20. The moderator who shared the post on our page did not see the wording addressing visitors from the Toronto region. This was an error on our part, one that we are truly sorry for making,” the church said.
“Once it was addressed, we removed the advertisement from our page.”
Third Day Worship Centre said the intent of inviting Malcangi was not to have people travel to Kingston from areas outside of the KFL&A region, but rather to have Malcangi address their congregation of people within the region.
“It was never our intent to invite out of region visitors. That was an oversight on our part, but thankfully, one that we were able to correct before any non-essential travel to our region occurred. We value our community and are devoted to it. We addressed online concern during our services,” Third Day Worship Centre concluded.
“As a church, we are committed to ensuring the guidelines prescribed by KFL&A Public Health in their ‘Places of Worship COVID-19 Prevention Checklist’ have been met, and ready to move with them in whatever they set in the coming weeks as we face this together.”
Local authorities respond
A large number of those discussing the Facebook advertisement for the Sunday services noted that both KFL&A Public Health and Kingston Police should be made aware of the situation. Indeed, a number of people took that matter into their own hands and did contact both authorities. When asked if they’d been made aware of the matter, KFL&A Public Health released the following statement:
“In regions under Yellow-Protect, limits for religious services, rites or ceremonies, where physical distancing can be maintained are to be held at 30 per cent capacity of the room indoors or 100 people outdoors. The fewer people individuals have contact with, the lower the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Virtual gatherings and virtual events are the safest way to attend events with people outside your household,” the local Health Unit said in an email, noting that there are no laws against interprovincial travel.
“KFL&A Public Health (and the Ministry of Health) recommend individuals limit travelling outside of their health unit region to essential travel only (e.g., work, health care). This is especially applicable to and from areas with higher COVID-19 transmission rates.”
Public Health did confirm that authorities had been in contact with Third Day Worship Centre.
“Our enforcement partners at Kingston Police Force have been in contact with Third Day Worship and reviewed recommendations from the Province and Public Health.”
Because many people online called on Mayor Bryan Paterson for response, as he formerly attended Third Day Worship Centre and spoke against some of the church’s preaching during a controversy earlier this year, Kingstonist reached out to his office, as well.
“The health and safety of our community is most important as we go through this second wave of COVID-19, and encouraging people to travel from locked down public health regions to our community for any reason is unacceptable. Dr. Moore, our Medical Officer of Health, has been very clear about the risks associated with travel to and from hot spots. We have to do what we can to protect one another by following the advice and guidance from public health – stay local and shop local,” Paterson said.
“I do not condone any messaging supporting travel here from high risk areas. I stepped away from the church in September and neither me (sic) nor my family were in attendance.”