The priest in charge of St Martin’s Anglican Church is making it clear to whomsoever was responsible for a fire at the altar that nothing will get in the way of the work of God.
“We will continue to rise and we will not be deterred from God’s work,” Rector Amrela Massiah told Barbados TODAY, a day after fire was set to the 159-year-old altar at the place of worship.
Police are continuing to probe what they suspect was a case of arson at the St Martin’s, St Philip church, which occurred between 11.30 a.m. and midday yesterday.
According to lawmen, someone set fire to the altar, two kneeling stools and a prayer book, leaving them extensively burnt. There was no damage to any other property. Two fire tenders with seven officers responded to the scene and extinguished the flames.
Massiah today said it was impossible to figure out what the suspected arsonist was thinking while attempting to destroy one of the most hallowed places in church, in what she saw as nothing short of sacrilege.
“I can’t speak to the individual’s mind as to what was going through their mind when they did this. It is not something the normal person would do and everybody knows that the altar is the focus of worship, especially within the Anglican Church. Clearly, the individual had some connection and knew what was going on and knew what he or she did,” she contended.
Massiah told Barbados TODAY it was a shocking act, despite the fact that the sanctity of the church, built in 1859 and consecrated on July 26, 1860, had been violated in the past.
Still, she said, nothing had come close to yesterday’s desecration of the altar.
“Everybody was stunned by the incident. We have never had anything like this happen before,” the rector said.
“In the past we had some break-ins and we solved those by installing burglar bars, but it seems we would need to go one step further by putting in cameras to ensure that nothing like this happens again,” she stressed, while noting that the church also held significant historical value to Barbados.
She said the altar, made from mahogany and interlaced with metal, was part of the church from the very beginning. However, despite the heartbreaking loss, the priest told Barbados TODAY that the membership had already begun to take steps to replace the holy spot.
“The church membership would have been devastated but now we are coping surprisingly well. We have cleaned up the church. We had someone come to look at the possibility of restoring the altar, but in the meantime we have a new altar coming in today. The books that disappeared have already been re-ordered and mass will continue as usual on Sunday,” Massiah explained.
Meantime, Warden Marlene Smith described the incident as despicable and concerning.
Smith was also worried that church property was no longer sacred here, although she was praying that the impious attack was an isolated case and whoever was behind the fire at the altar could also find salvation there.
“I would like to think that this is not the case [that sacrilege is widespread]. I would like to think that the church is still being seen as a hallowed place for everyone to come and find salvation,” she stressed.