Barbados: Social activity Lashley slams church closures over COVID-19 fears

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Barbados: Social activity Lashley slams church closures over COVID-19 fears
Social activist Hamilton Lashley
Social activist Hamilton Lashley

(BARBADOS TODAY) — Social activist Hamilton Lashley has blasted churches for deciding to close their doors during the COVID-19 crisis.

Lashley told Barbados TODAY that he was left hopping mad after learning that the Anglican Church has decided to suspend services for the next two weeks as a result of the presence of COVID-19 on the island, and has proposed to broadcast and stream live sessions online.

Lashley did not address Government’s restrictions on social gatherings in excess of 100 people. Most of the members of the Anglican Church are over age 65, considered the group most vulnerable to lethal viral illness.

But the former Minister of Social Transformation declared it was the devil’s work to close their doors at a time when citizens are living in fear and uncertainty regarding the threat of the virus, saying the church cannot allow this.

Lashley, who did not declare his religious affiliation, said: “I have a problem with the churches closing their doors to the congregation. Do not shut God’s church doors. It is a very wrong thing. Do not let the devil shut God’s churches, it cannot work. Do not let the devil take it over. The pastors cannot run away from the frontline of the battle.

“You cannot leave it to the doctors and the politicians. It must be a position that the church must be upfront in the battle. They cannot sing Onward Christian Soldiers and praise God only when things are good and then when their faith is truly put to the test they back off.”

In a press release issued this week, Bishop of Barbados the Right Reverend Michael Maxwell announced that “in Government’s efforts to minimize the rate of transmission of COVID-19, we have been requested to limit our social interaction and to ensure that any gathering of persons should not exceed 100 people”.

The Bishop said that as a result, the Anglican Church recognizes that it cannot be business as usual and therefore needs to change its modus operandi. Bishop Maxwell said there would be no regular Sunday church services, namely Matins, Holy Eucharist, and Evensong are to be held until Sunday, April 5 for the time being.

But the former parliamentarian stressed that it is important for the doors of churches to remain open to allow parishioners to go to them for guidance, comfort and to seek solace.

Lashley declared: “The church’s position of closing their doors to their flock and communicate to them in some cases via the technology is one in my view that contradicts all the Biblical guidelines of how to deal in a crisis.

“In a crisis like this, you call on the protective forces of the Most High. And of course, in a situation like this Government has imposed a rule where no more than 100 people could be in one place at any time at this time, but the churches can work around this.”

Lashley suggested that churches can have about four services per day, instead of one or two. He said regardless of whenever or how many times church leaders decide to hold services, they must keep the doors opened for members, particularly the elderly who must be able to attend church to seek comfort in the name of God and for guidance for their spiritual leaders.

He told Barbados TODAY: “To say that they are shutting because they are protecting their congregation from the virus might be a decision to take. But my position is the churches can put systems in place where the congregants can come to church even if it is 50 to 60 persons at a time to receive that protective blessing and inspiration from their leaders to which they are accustomed.

“Obviously the churches would have systems in place where there are hand sanitizers and other physical components to protect the congregation. Put the hygienic measures that have been suggested by authorities in place. And the centres for the elderly at some of the churches across Barbados should remain opened.” [email protected]

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