Historian Trevor Marshall has cast shame on the nation’s oldest church for allowing violent crime to spiral upward, and called on members to lead the fight against lawlessness.
Delivering the annual Dean’s Lecture of the St Michael Centre for Faith and Action, Marshall asserted that 50 years after the Anglican Church was disestablished as the state church, Anglicans continue to be the largest group and must resume their leadership role.
“The Anglican Church should be ashamed of the fact at the end of April 2018 we had 10 murders: five months; two per month. At the end of January 2019, we had nine murders,” he said to a small audience at the Frank Collymore Hall, including the newly enthroned Anglican, Bishop Michael Maxwell.
Marshall said: “This is part of the charge to the church to come out of your comfort zone. Don’t get in your tinted cars and drive away from the church meetings and services on Sunday.
“Spend some time in pastoral activities, not just visiting to give [comfort] to persons at the point of death. Go out there as Jesus said, in the highways and byways
“This is part of the charge to Bishop Maxwell.”
Confessing that though born into the Anglican Church, he had become a backslider, or apostate, Marshall said he remains an Anglican.
The historian told audience: “I’ll die an Anglican and I want us who are going to die Anglicans to do something for the Barbadian community before we die, under the leadership of Bishop Maxwell.
“Make it a point every Sunday or whatever to go to them [young lawbreakers] in the highways and byways. These are the highways and byways of which Jesus spoke.”
Marshall cautioned against being seen to recommend that parishioners attempt to take the Word of God to troubled spots controlled by criminal gangs such as the so-called “Red Sea” gang, saying their lives may be at risk.
“But put on your robes ride around . . . with the policemen, or precede the police and go to these places because these guys who killing one another are just little boys,” he said.
Marshall continued: “Ten years ago, some of them were church members in your choir and the sang Once in Royal David’s City. Seven years later they say, ‘If I die bury me with my gun’.
“So, the church has failed, the primary schools have failed, the secondary schools have failed.
The church, can do something to make that situation better. Only you can lead.”
While suggesting that when news breaks of a child gone bad, teachers tend to blame poor parenting, but “the church cannot say that. The church has a moral obligation to make sure that our young people do not go the way of gangsters, the church above anything else”.
Noting that increased violent crime is not only afflicting Barbados but that “the Caribbean is in uproar”, he criticized Anglican ministers for merely saying in soft voices “lay down the guns”.
“The church then must come here and say, ‘you put down that gun. I got bigger guns, Jesus Christ. He is going to deal with you. And there is a hereafter’,” he said to the audience of Anglican clerics and laypeople.
In addition to meeting gangsters and potential gangsters in the streets, Marshall also suggested that “all of our ministers should visit those young people in jail”.
The historian, who has lectured at the Community College and the University of the West Indies, spoke of courtyard ‘bravado’ among young alleged offenders when entering or leaving the magistrate’s courts, but added, “when they get up there [prison] and that door slams behind them they begin to cry”.
“Some people who have been there, accused of murder etcetera and they say, ‘it is no fun’. The basic human misses freedom and you have no education; lots of them superannuated from school.”
He told Anglicans that visiting these youngsters “is your charge”.
“You must not leave it just to volunteers and charitable people to deal with our swelling or burgeoning prison population. Deal with them,” he added.