Anglican bishop, Reverend Laish Boyd, described the times in which we are living as “the worst of times” during his Charge to the 119th Session of Synod but, at the same token, he reminded people to have faith and to never forget that it’s also the best of times in The Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands.
“These are the worst of times, but never forget that these are the best of times in both of our countries,” said Boyd. “There are so many things happening that are good and positive – and the things that are amiss are things for which there are remedies. And if we put our heads together, we can ameliorate them,” said the bishop of the Diocese of The Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands.
Boyd said God will help His people to be the “salt and light” that the world needs. And that He has given people the mandate to be the church.
“Let us be that church – that salt and light – in every sphere of our lives and in every sphere of national life,” said Boyd during the Synod opening eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral.
Referencing author Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Tale of Two Cities”, in which he referred to “the best of times” and “the worst of times” – Boyd said that is the world in which we live today because people’s hearts are filled with both joy and dread.
“Joy, because it is good to be alive, to be able to move and to make choices, and because we live in two beautiful countries, The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) and The Bahamas, and because these are still the best places on Earth to live. However, there is still dread because some things are not what they should be. Some things are not going right. Some of us are not doing what we are supposed to do, and there is so much that distresses us.”
He reminded them that God is still God and that His people are still the church. And to let the voice and action of the church be “salt of the earth and light of the world” no matter what.
This as he noted the increase in crime in both island nations. He referenced a TCI incident on October 2 that left three dead and five wounded. The territory has had 27 murders, to date, compared to 14 last year.
The Bahamas, he noted at the time of his address on Wednesday, October 19, had recorded a “staggering” 108 murders which he said is distressing and frightening, but he said people must not panic. The Anglican bishop encouraged vigilance and caution. At the same token, he urged people who know of persons committing crimes to turn them in to the authorities.
“Do not cloak your relatives, friends, or children in shady business. If it is not honest, stay far from it. Support the police. Do right. We cannot do wrong and expect our two countries to progress,” said Boyd.
On the hot button topic of marital rape, Boyd said the Anglican Diocese
wholeheartedly supports the proposed amendments to the Sexual Offences Act, so that wherever rape happens, it is called rape.
He called rape a heinous act of violence perpetrated against another person using sex as a weapon.
“It is not an act of love by any stretch of the imagination,” said the bishop. “Force is used to overpower a person who does not consent to the act.”
He said a fundamental human right for all people is to have equal protection under the law without discrimination.
“No person whether single or married should be subject to degrading violent behavior. Married persons should not lose that right simply because they are married. Marriage is a sacrament before God where persons covenant to love and protect each other until death. Rape is not love or protection.”
The bishops said a spouse is entitled to the control of his or her body, and should only willingly give it when he or she wishes. And if there is a problem with a spouse being willing to give consent, there is a fundamental concern with the marriage itself and the parties should seek spiritual and professional help. However, in the absence of a serious issue in the marriage, Boyd said a spouse should be able to give consent each time that the parties have sexual intercourse. If the sex is taken without that consent, he said it is rape.
One of the things which the Anglican church noted during the COVID-19 lockdowns and in its aftermath, he said, is a sharp increase of instances (reported and not reported) of violence in homes and relationships. This he said has been due in part to frustration from the loss of income and employment, confinement, uncertainty, and other hardships, and it is alarming. Boyd said the reality must be acknowledged and that everything must be done to counteract and heal.
“The church has always been in the business of healing and mending and rebuilding lives and relationships, and we will continue to be as we carry on the gospel mandate through the work of clergy and lay people, and through the worship and other activities of our many parishes.”
In November 2020, a group of Anglican professionals formed The Diocesan Family Violence Think Tank (DFVTT) – in collaboration with interested professionals from across community and denominational lines – seeking to raise awareness and helping to shape the diocese’s ongoing response to family violence of all kinds, including the abuse of vulnerable populations, intimate partner violence and the abuse of any other people in the household.
“We are called by God to love one another, and this requires the church to be much more intentional than ever before in the prevention, reduction and elimination of every facet of family violence. We want to maintain and create safe spaces where peace and comfort and security are overflowing,” he said.
Speaking to family life, he said what some people may regard as so basic that it does not need to be said is that good family life is important. He encouraged people to continue to stress this and to work toward it whatever their home configuration – striving for a place of peace and security for all who live there, where differences are dealt with positively.
“Let all in your home know that they are valued, loved, and cared for. Teach children – and let adults model respect for authority and for all people and courtesy. Stress the importance of education and good behavior, cooperation, a positive outlook on life and society – and godliness. You may not have all of the money or job security that you would like to have, but you do not need those things to be decent and respectable, and to give your children a good upbringing and good values that will take them through the world.
The bishop said it was distressing to observe the alarming rise in the cost of living and the accompanying food insecurity, and increasing ranks of the poor in The Bahamas.
“Hurricane Dorian hit the northern islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama hard, and they are still recovering, but COVID-19 hit everyone hard,” he said. “The effect on local economies across the world, and on shipping and supply lines, has pushed prices up. More and more people in many walks of life are feeling the squeeze, but especially the middle and poorer classes. This is a universal phenomenon which even the largest and richest countries cannot control, so imagine the small Turks and Caicos Islands and Bahamas. We have to put our heads together and find a way to relieve the burden that so many live with daily – we have to.”
Boyd said while there are so many things out of people’s control, he is convinced that there are areas where they can improve their lot by taking intentional steps. He said they can better plan the use of their vehicles, pool to save gas, form a group to buy some grocery items wholesale, cut back on wastage generally, especially when it comes to food in particular.
He said COVID-19 has taught everyone that they can live on less, make preparation of family meals fun and eat out less, word harder at cutting electricity costs by using energy efficient bulbs and solar-operated apparatus like water heating panels.
“You cannot control the charges, but you could do something about your consumption. This list is not exhaustive at all, and further discussion is necessary by all of us,” he said.
INCREASE IN MINIMUM WAGE
Boyd commended The Bahamas government for increasing the minimum wage from $210 a week to $260 per week which he said is a good and helpful move in a difficult time because it helps and it makes a difference. At the same token, he encouraged workers to work harder.
“Too many of us do not do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, which is shameful. There is pride in work performance out there, but there needs to be more pride in work performance.”
Boyd encouraged workers to work hard, so that they are an asset to their employer and not a liability. He also encouraged employers to treat their staff well with respect and fairness, like family.
When life is unusually hard, Boyd said, for many people, it creates so many other problems and societal stresses.
“We are often so consumed with focusing on, lamenting and even treating a myriad of symptomatic national ills that we neglect to address their root cause. Hence, social unrest, economic woes, and deficient governance [by both parties] continues to haunt us.
“If we persist along this path, we will soon tire ourselves after needlessly wasting precious time and valuable resources – while making no meaningful progress.”
Boyd said the real causes of national problems that many nations face arise out of a lack of transparency, accountability and fair play by national leaders and national systems; a deficiency that he said subsequently breaks down into various forms and degrees of injustice, oppression, and self-gratification at the expense of the poor and the vulnerable.
“An effective remedy for preventing this corrosive malady would include putting into place, and strengthening existing, systems and structures that promote or reinforce transparency, accountability, and equity among the major pillars of Bahamian society like the government, the church, industry and civil society.”
Should The Bahamas fail to make real changes, Boyd said, they would only fulfill the old adage, “the more things change, the more they remain the same”, regardless of the political party in power.
He also spoke on the effects on education by COVID-19 which he said continues to concern him about the medium-term and long-term effects in both countries.