Her strict enforcement of the COVID-19 protocols at funerals has subjected an Anglican priest to threats to her life.
Rector of the St Martin’s Anglican Church in St Philip Rev Amrela Massiah said she had been verbally abused “in Barbadian terms” and threatened with death by groups of mourners on at least two occasions during funeral services on church property.
Rev Massiah complained that she received the backlash because she had insisted that mourners wear their masks, physically distance or reduce their numbers which had exceeded the 100 stipulated in the health protocols.
In fact, Rev Massiah told Barbados TODAY that at one service in late March 26 “there were about 200 mourners, a large number of police officers among them, one in uniform”.
“A complaint was made to the Oistins [station] and one of the officers who came, said she was told in a memo, that as long as people weren’t standing on church property, they could stay provided they were socially distanced.”
The priest recalled the dramatic events of that day on the church compound including the fury of some of the funeral attendees towards her when she refused to commence the proceedings until the excess number of people dispersed.
“The whole community turned up. They did not stay [inside the church], they migrated outside the church. We had a COVID Monitoring Unit girl there and she told me, as I always do, to announce that I won’t be able to start the service until we had a hundred or under in the church and no one outside,” the Anglican cleric stated.
“We ended up with about 84 in the church, which was fine, because they all decided they were staying outside and they were not moving…we would have to call the police for them,” Rev Massiah related.
The priest said she eventually did the service inside the church, but that was not the end of the matter for a group of the mourners.
“When we were going out to the churchyard…across from the church to the cemetery, they had all migrated to a vendor van…they were surrounded, no masks, drinking…they followed us down to the graveside but stayed on the bluff overlooking us. I said I am not going to start the burial until this crowd is dispersed,” the Rev Massiah recalled.
“The funeral director came to me…I said I am not starting the funeral…the COVID person came to me saying ‘these people are not going to move.’ I said I am not going to start the funeral. So I walked very quietly away from there, back to my vestry and told them to call me when the crowd is dispersed.”
Rev Massiah told Barbados TODAY it was while returning to her office that the ire of this group of mourners was most vehement.
“As I was walking, I was called everything. I was cursed in Barbadian terms…I was told I was a criminal; I should be prosecuted; I should be in jail; I needed killing; all sorts of things. I didn’t respond, I just walked to my vestry,” the religious leader lamented.
She said she was later informed that people, excluding the group which had been standing their ground, started to leave clearing the way for her to conduct the graveside service.
“This is the second time. We had one with a huge crowd and the same thing happened. They refused to move. They were so boisterous. The Bishop asked the Attorney General for a meeting to talk about it because I am beginning not to feel safe if I am being threatened for doing my job and for upholding the protocols,” Rev Massiah stated adding that nobody seems to be listening.
She said the most recent incident took place a week ago.