One of the largest religious denominations in Barbados has formally requested a meeting with Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith to discuss, among other things, the conduct of some of his officers at the gravesite of a recent funeral service.
But Anglican Bishop of Barbados Rev Michael Maxwell said Wednesday that apart from an acknowledgement of his March 3, 2021 letter, there has been no meeting scheduled.
Bishop Maxwell was responding to a Barbados TODAY request for him to shed further light on a story published on Tuesday in which his priest-in-charge of the St Martin’s Anglican Church in St Philip, Rev Amrela Massiah complained that her strict enforcement of COVID-19 protocols at funerals has subjected her to threats on her life.
Rev Massiah said she had been verbally abused and threatened with death by groups of mourners on at least two occasions during funeral services on church property after she insisted on the wearing of masks, that mourners physically distance themselves and keep within the confines of the 100 maximum stated in the protocols.
Today, Bishop Maxwell explained “Having received notice from Rev Amrela, the matter of assisting our clergy in the conduct of funerals under these trying times has been raised at a recent Pastoral Committee and we will be seeking to put in place some further policy guidelines to assist our clergy in this area for such times as these,” the Anglican Church leader stated.
He said that since the beginning of the pandemic and the issuing of the government directives, members of the Anglican clergy have been exhorted to follow “very closely” those directives, along with the advice given by the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit for the conduct of religious services.
“When a previous incident took place at a graveside funeral of the same church, where the number of persons on site for that funeral exceeded the limit of 10 mourners, I would have spoken to the Attorney General [Dale Marshall] to raise the concern that the police and some members of the public seem to have a different interpretation to the church on this matter and that my clergy have been troubled on this matter,” the Anglican Bishop told Barbados TODAY.
“The AG suggested that I reach out to the Commissioner of Police, which I did and I made a request to the Commissioner for a meeting to discuss this matter along with the AG so that we can all be of the same mind on this issue and my clergy and the public can be duly informed,” he said.
“This request was made on March 3, 2021, following the graveside funeral on February 26, 2021 and to date, I have only received an acknowledgement of my correspondence but no further action. Since then the protocols became relaxed, but now we are once again to the point of having to restrict our mourners to 100 persons attending a funeral service.
“The challenges have once again begun where some members of the public are not willing to comply with the directives and the clergy are then seen in a negative way. All parties need to be on the same wavelength and to comply as our clergy and the COVID Monitoring Unit seek to reinforce the government’s directives for our health and safety,” Bishop Maxwell concluded.
In a memorandum dated July 28, 2021 and addressed to Rev Massiah’s sister priest, Rev Sandra Hazell reported that before Rev Massiah arrived on site for a graveside funeral service on February 26, 2021, she was verbally abused.
Rev Hazell told the St Martin Church rector that a male mourner even blocked the path of her car as she sought to leave the immediate area which was populated by an estimated 200 people.
She said she was going to a quieter place until the crowd had been reduced to 10 as then stipulated by the government directives.
“At this point a man came and stood in front of the car and refused to move to allow me to drive off. It was only on the persuasion of the… brother [of the deceased] that the man moved from in front of my car.
“Walking to the car I was met with such verbal abuse that I decided to go over to the church and telephone the police,” Rev Hazell’s memo recalled.
When contacted Wednesday afternoon, Police Commissioner Griffith was unavailable for comment.