I am the Pastor of First Baptist Church, Freeport, Bahamas. Some nine weeks ago, in compliance with the order of the competent authority, I shut down services at this local church. Now I have had enough.
When I discontinued services nine weeks ago, I did so in good faith. It was to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, to protect my congregation and by extension protect others in Grand Bahama. However, the curve in Grand Bahama has long been flattened; still, the church is on lockdown. Hardware stores, automotive stores, department stores, gas stations, selected eateries, now even liquor stores are opened; still, the church is lockdown. The boarders have been breached with impunity; still the church is on lockdown. There are islands in this archipelago that have not had a single COVID-19 case in this entire period; still the churches are lockdown.
The president of the Bahamas Christian Council, Bishop Delton Fernander, drafted a proposal that he sent to the competent authority. It was cogent, coherent, reasonable, adhering to best-practices and cutting-edge protocols; this proposal was submitted over a month ago; still churches are on lockdown.
I called the president of the Bahamas Christian Council after the government leaders broke the law with prejudice, allowing rich white people in and keeping poor black people out. I suggested to him to contact all of the leaders of denominations in the nation and let us open the doors of the church the following Sunday, with the safety protocols, since the land no longer had any COVID-19 laws that were respected by those who made them. Moreover, I indicated that the threat of COVID-19 no longer seemed to be the reason for our imprisonment and that the competent authority couldn’t lock up the entire church membership of the nation. The president informed me that the church can’t break the law. We missed an opportunity to show this administration that the church can’t be played with.
When you give an inch, they take a mile. Now the competent authority is telling us how we can have worship, when we can have worship, how long we can have worship, who can attend worship and what ordinances of the church we can’t have. “Communion may not be held.” Can you believe that he actually told us that? Can you believe that he actually sat somewhere and wrote that? Are we going to sit by and allow this god-king to continue in his devilish delusion, believing that he can command that?
I am sure that many church persons are jumping for joy about this drive-up church nonsense. Parenthetically, I find this church in the car business curious since it was only last week that young persons in Eleuthera were arrested for being out in their cars. Still, in one stroke of the god-king’s pen, persons who have no vehicles can’t attend church; nor can they catch a ride with a friend or ride the church’s bus; an assault on the poor again; and churches that have no parking lots can’t have services. Are we considering what we are giving up when we consent to this not-well-thought-out proposal? We are in fact giving up the authority of the church. That great crowd of witnesses, who gave their blood, sweat, tears and life for the Church of Jesus Christ, must be weeping now. I will leave it to the legal minds to wrestle with whether there is also here an infringement upon the separation of church and state.
Rev. Terrence Morrison, Pastor of Zion Baptist Church, East and Shirley Street, Nassau, Bahamas sent out a missive that I read about a week ago, “Do You See What I See; Do You Hear What I Hear.” I likened it to Martin Luther’s “95 Theses” that he nailed to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. It gave me much pause. I was overwhelming convicted. Like John Wesley and those disciples on their way to Emmaus, my heart burned within me.
As a Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I repent. I repent for allowing the competent authority to convince me to keep the doors of the church closed on Palm Sunday and Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I repent with bitter tears. I knew better, but I went with the crowd; I kowtowed; I locked myself away like the disciples after the crucifixion, convincing myself that I was being responsible, law abiding. What I should have been is faithful. I should have challenged the unholy edict; instead I bowed when the ungodly music sounded. I may have to spend a couple of days in Hell for that, but I will not be alone. In fact, there must be special furnaces in Hell for us Pastors who know what is right and don’t do it.
We can’t allow the new protocols for the church (and there will be new protocols) to be set by the incompetent authority. That would be anathema! Some of us who are courageous enough may have to get up from behind our comfortable desks and go to jail this time, for the cause of Christ. For some time now, based on my uncelebrated observation, this lockdown is no longer about containment of COVID-19. What the incompetent authority is now doing to the Church of Jesus Christ is immoral and ungodly. And it is time for those of us who name the name of Christ to say: “It is enough!”
I write; you decide.
~ Rev. Dr. Keith Russell