Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Bishop Delton Fernander said the recent ease of restrictions by the prime minister increasing the maximum number of people who can attend a graveside funeral from 10 to 20 people is insufficient and “despicable”.
He said he feels the government is not listening to the cries on the matter as restrictions have grown to the point of placing more unnecessary hurt on families still grieving from the loss of a loved one.
“Maybe there’s the feeling that it’s just Fernander or it’s just the pastors complaining,” Fernander said. “I think they need to feel John Public calling them and letting them know that this is despicable, that we really can’t bring closure for our families and we need to solve real problems, because we’re dealing with real situations and real human beings.”
On Sunday, Fernander spoke at a funeral where scores of people — all wearing masks — were in attendance for the funeral of Leonie Wallace, the wife of VODDC Senior Pastor Leon Wallace, which was held at Woodlawn Gardens. Fernander said he only showed up “to give my remarks and the crowd was there”.
Wednesday night, the government released an amended emergency order allowing the increase in family members attending a graveside funeral.
Indoor funerals are still banned on New Providence.
Fernander said the update was lacking as it doesn’t address those in different memorial situations where perhaps there is nobody to lay to rest.
“There’s the challenge of cremation,” Fernander said.
“If I have a cremation without a body that needs to be interred, if you’re not giving the [permission] for facilities to be open for memorials or funerals, how do I bring closure to that family? That might be 20, that might be 10, but should we go to a graveyard and have a service in a graveyard just for somebody who is cremated? I think more thought needs to be given that these are real scenarios and nobody is trying to do anything untoward. This is what the church is there for – to bring closure.”
According to Fernander, the BCC is constantly barraged with requests from families for indoor funeral and memorial services.
However, he said he constantly has to remind them that it is the competent authority, and perhaps the Cabinet, that makes the decisions.
Fernander said while allowing 20 people is better than only 10, it “does not solve the problems”.
The BCC president said while some may interpret his statement to be political, he feels there is a clear disconnect between the government and the people on this and several other issues.
“I don’t want to be political as all parties go through this,” he said.
“They get in a bubble where they get detached from society. Sometimes, you need to come out of your bubble and talk to real people and hear real problems. Politicians come and go. Pastors, we deal with everyday challenges with everyday people every day of the week.
“That gives you a pulse of where people are hurting and what’s going on. We’ve seen this with successive leadership, it doesn’t just lag under one leadership.
“They get into the place where people are telling them what they want to hear, they’re giving them solutions and sometimes the solutions are flippant. ‘Okay you had 10, we give you 20. You should be quiet.’ That has a certain feel to it. That has a certain flow to it and there’s a challenge with people accepting the way it is presented.”
Since late March of 2020 when restrictions were introduced to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country, families seeking to bury their loved ones have had to maneuver through the hard task of choosing which family members were allowed to attend the graveside service.
Fernander said he doesn’t think the government understands the heartbreaking task of having family members watch a homegoing service for their loved one from over a wall.
“You see a lot of frustration and anger,” he said.
“You are at the gate of a graveyard and they tell you 10 of your family members can go in.
“So, you do the honorable thing and send in 10 of your senior members and you have some of the children who are missing grammy, some of the grandchildren who tell their nana goodbye or their godfather goodbye and they’re calling them, hollering and crying and screaming.
“There’s anger because they didn’t get to bring that closure that’s necessary. Sometimes we can take for granted the need to bring closure and to cause this pressure to be relieved in a spiritual way.”