Parishioners at one central Ottawa church were forced to spend the first day of Advent in their basement after Presbyterian officials locked them out of the sanctuary.

A petition had been going around asking for the removal of the pastor, Rev. Wayne Menard, at St. Giles Presbyterian Church.

Sunday, church officials said the congregation was disrespecting their authority and wouldn't be allowed inside the sanctuary until they repented.

"Well I believe that both sides have made mistakes and that it's important to focus on the future now," said parishioner Claudia Chowaniec.

"This is a church with a long history in the community and we're very much afraid that people will start to leave the church."

Menard told CTV Ottawa the issue is very complex, but this wasn't the first time the congregation had tried to oust its pastor.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Katie Griffin