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(Barbados Today) – A group of pastors is to appeal to Government to allow them to reopen churches for regular services, amid thegradual relaxation of social restrictions imposed by the public health emergency.

The group, the National Network of Pastors and Leaders, said it has been invited by the Prime Minister to suggest the maximum capacity of churches while adhering to physical distancing

The network’s spokesman Apostle Reverend David Durant, told Barbados TODAY the group is made up of several churches from different denominations, as well as “independent evangelical and Pentecostal church leaders”

It was not immediately clear whether the main Protestant churches, including the Anglican Diocese, or the Roman Catholic Church were represented in the body or had been consulted about the proposal. The main ecumenical body, the Barbados Christian Council, is currently headed by Major Darrell Wilkinson, divisional commander of the Salvation Army.

Reverend Durant said: “While we have respected the rules regarding the numbers in the congregation as we do live streaming broadcasts – ten people at first, and eventually 20 – ideally we want to see churches reopening full time, but respecting the social distancing protocols in the process.

“We are putting together a proposal, which the Prime Minister requested, to ascertain how many people each building can hold in a way that they can respect the rules. We are looking at a maximum of 60 people.

“The churches already had sanitizers in place at both doors before the shutdown, so we will continue this, as well as check the temperatures of the people coming in.

“Of course, there won’t be any hugs or handshakes as members greet each other because we are in a different season now.”

The pastor also responded to social media criticisms that the clergy was excluded from the list of essential workers. He noted that more people were seeking assistance from the church than ever before and that he himself had gone out of his way to help Barbadians in need.

Dr Durant told Barbados TODAY: “I cannot confirm whether it is true that the clergy is not on the list of essential service providers, but the church is here to address social needs, in that we give out hampers and provide other assistance such as counselling and other emotional support.

“I personally have gone out to assist families outside of the curfew time and on days that did not correspond with the letter of my surname, and if asked why I was venturing out, I would tell the authorities that I am taking items to families that need help.”

The evangelical preacher also had some words of encouragement for Barbadians as the country continues to endure the pandemic. “We will come through this, we just have to trust God and not give up,” he declared.

“The last time the world experienced anything like this was the Spanish flu in 1918, some 102 years ago. I am thankful that we seem to be past the worst now in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean.

“We now have to unite, show love and respect for each other and I would hope that the criminal element will refrain from such activity and put their hands to better use.”

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